LONDON, Sept 3 (PTI): In an unprecedented crackdown to restore the game�s credibility, ICC today charged and suspended Pakistan�s tainted trio of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer under its anti-corruption code in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal.
The International Cricket Council said the three players have been notified officially of the offences they are alleged to have committed and have been provisionally suspended pending a decision on the charges.
�In accordance with the provisions of the code, this means they are immediately barred from participating in all cricket and related activities until the case has been concluded,� ICC said in a statement.
Pakistan, however, continued to defend the players and sought to give a new twist to the sordid episode by suggesting that an Indian bookmaker could be behind the �conspiracy�.
�I found that all these three players were absolutely innocent. They were not involved, they have been taken for a ride and the agent (Mazhar Majeed) was the culprit, in the sense that he was responsible for defrauding some Asian bookies,� Pakistan High Commissioner to Britain Hassan said.
�The British press says Asian but if they were from Pakistan they (British media) would have called Pakistanis, which means some Indian bookies were involved in it. This Majeed allegedly defrauded these Indian bookies and so the newspaper investigated this sort of sting operation through their sources here,� he said.
The ICC, however, said the players, who are due to appear before the Scotland Yard today for interrogation, �have a right to contest the provisional suspension and a further opportunity to defend these charges at a full hearing before an independent Anti-Corruption Tribunal in accordance with Article 5 of the code.�
The players have 14 days from their receipt of the charge sheet to indicate their desire for a hearing, the sport�s governing body said.
ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat said, �We will not tolerate corruption in cricket. We must be decisive with such matters and if proven, these offences carry serious penalties up to a life ban.
�The ICC will do everything possible to keep such conduct out of the game and we will stop at nothing to protect the sport�s integrity. While we believe the problem is not widespread, we must always be vigilant.�
Lorgat said the game�s integrity is of �paramount importance�.
�Prompt and decisive action will be taken against those who seek to harm it. However, the facts must first be established through a thorough investigation and it is important to respect the right of due process when addressing serious allegations of this sort,� he said.
�Make no mistake � once the process is complete, if any players are found to be guilty, the ICC will ensure that the appropriate punishment is handed out. We will not tolerate corruption in this great game,� the ICC chief said.
The alleged offences against Pakistani players, if proved, could lead to life bans. There is also a possibility, at the discretion of the independent tribunal, that a fine would be imposed in addition to a ban.