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Mumbai Gangster Approached Aussies Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Reports Sydney Paper

Australian cricketers Shane Watson and Brad Haddin were approached by a suspected Mumbai gangster with links to illegal bookmakers during the tour of England last year, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Tuesday.The newspaper reported  Watson
mumbai gangster approached aussies shane watson...
PTI August 31, 2010 15:24 IST
Australian cricketers Shane Watson and Brad Haddin were approached by a suspected Mumbai gangster with links to illegal bookmakers during the tour of England last year, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Tuesday.

The newspaper reported  Watson was approached in the bar of the team's West London hotel, the Royal Kensington Garden, after the Lord's Test, and Haddin was confronted during the World Twenty20 tournament.

Both players immediately reported the approaches to authorities and neither is suspected of any wrongdoing.

The attempted corruption exposes the audacity of the betting underworld and follows explosive allegations that one of seven Pakistani players implicated in this week's spot-fixing scandal took bribes from bookmakers before flying to Australia last summer, report Herald reporters Alex Brown and Jamie Pandaram.

British police have not ruled out charging Pakistani cricketers for conspiracy to defraud - which has a maximum penalty of 10 years' jail - in the light of accusations that they fixed aspects of the fourth Test against England in London this past week.

An alleged match fixer, Mazhar Majeed, was arrested for conspiracy to defraud bookmakers but given bail without charge yesterday by Scotland Yard. He is due to face more questioning and if charged, a Metropolitan police source said, the Pakistani players could face the same charge.

The former girlfriend of Mohammad Asif, who is accused of working with Majeed, has detailed an alleged trip Asif made to Bangkok before the Australian tour. "Since his comeback [from a drugs ban], he is totally involved in this,'' the Pakistani actress Veena Malik, told India's newspaper DNA. ''Once he told me that the entire Pakistan team is involved. From head to toe, the Pakistan players and officials are involved.

"One day he got business class tickets and went to Bangkok. He told me that he was offered $US40,000. I advised him not to be part of such activities but he did not listen. He went ahead and demanded $US200,000 from them. He borrowed $US3 million from me to pay to certain people to have his ban reduced to one year [from two].''

During the fourth Test against England, which finished on Sunday, Asif and Mohammad Aamer bowled no-balls at the exact moments predicted by Majeed to an undercover journalist posing as a wealthy businessman, who paid him £150,000 ($260,000) for the information.

The extent of alleged match fixing and spot fixing - rigging individual moments of play - could be staggering as authorities examine 82 matches involving Pakistan in the past 2½ years, calling into question all Test and one-day rankings, series results and this year's Twenty20 World Cup.

The investigations will also focus on the first Test of the series won by England, which it has been claimed was fixed, and on other national teams.

The Herald has learnt Watson and Haddin were approached by the same man, who also sought to procure information from other international cricketers and at least one member of the media during the World Twenty20 tournament in England. Senior International Cricket Council sources described him as a Mumbai gangster with links to illegal bookmakers in India. The ICC's anti-corruption and security unit has begun an investigation into his dealings.

A Cricket Australia spokesman yesterday confirmed approaches had been made to two players during the tour of England, and to a CA official. Watson and Haddin declined to comment.

The brazen approaches demonstrate the extent to which illegal bookmakers have been emboldened by the rapid expansion of Twenty20 cricket, which is largely unpoliced.Pakistan's captain, Salman Butt, and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal have also been implicated.

In Melbourne,  Shane Watson and Brad Haddin have confirmed they were approached by a suspected Mumbai gangster, linked with bookmakers in India, during the tour of England last year.

Watson's admission came after the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the all-rounder was approached in the bar of the team's West London hotel, the Royal Kensington Garden, after the Lord's Test, while wicketkeeper Haddin was confronted during the World Twenty20 tournament last year.

"Both players had immediately reported the approaches to the authorities and neither is suspected of any wrongdoing," the newspaper said. Watson also confirmed that he was approached twice by the illegal bookmaker and he had reported the matter to Australian team management.

"I didn't think too much more of it until I found out a bit more information and that he was actually one of the illegal bookmakers," he told the Australian Associated Press.

"It was just a little bit different to what normal fans are," he said.  Watson's admission came after spot-fixing allegations against several Pakistani cricketers, including captain Salman Butt, rocks the world cricket.

Mazhar Majeed, an alleged bookie, claimed in a sting operation by British tabloid 'News of the World' that several Pakistani cricketers were involved in spot as well as match-fixing.

Watson was in "complete shock" when he first learned of the match-fixing allegations and said if found true the accused players face the risk of life ban.

"When I first heard about it I was in complete shock, there's no doubt about that. If the allegations are true then they will unfortunately get a lifetime ban," he said.

The 29-year-old Australian all-rounder said he was upset about young Mohammad Aamer's involvement in the match-fixing scandal.

"I probably feel for him (Aamer) more than anyone because he's only a young, naive and innocent guy," Watson said.

"Unfortunately he's caught up with something (and) whether it's in their culture I don't know, I don't know how deep it runs but it's unfortunate that someone of his skill has got tied up with something that is damaging to cricket and to the individuals.

 "I found him to be a brilliant competitor on the field. He always gave everything he got every single time that I competed against him and I found him to be an extremely skillful bowler for a 19-year-old," he said.
 
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