By Nick Harris
5 September 2010
The cricket ‘spot-fixing scandal’ took its latest extraordinary twist this evening when the Pakistan batsman, Yasir Hameed, released a statement detailing how the News of the World – and specifically its investigations editor, Mazher Mahmood – had misrepresented Hameed’s views, had offered to pay him £25,000 to talk about three team-mates accused of spot-fixing, and then, when he declined, had made threats to publish a video of him drinking wine (something that would play badly in Pakistan, not least during Ramadan).
In today’s News of the World, the paper carried a big piece headlined: ’Pakistani star Yasir Hameed blows lid off cricket corruption’.
The piece was presented in a manner that never makes it clear to readers that Hameed was filmed covertly, and was relaying chunks of information largely garnered not from personal knowledge but from last weekend’s News of the World. “That’s what reports say,” the NotW itself even quotes him as saying on a video in reference to allegations.
Today’s piece began: “A Pakistan cricketer who played in the rigged Lord’s Test has sensationally confirmed that there WERE cheats in his team. Respected opening batsman Yasir Hameed claims bent teammates were fixing ‘almost every match’.”
In fact, Hameed never says those words; they are presented to him as a possibility to which he replied: “That’s what reports say.”
Thus the ludicrous situation where the NotW is quoting someone saying things he’d read in the NotW, some of which he didn’t remember accurately.
In response to the piece Yasir Hameed released the following statement
Press Release from PCB Regarding Yasir Hameed (Affidavit)
Re: Article by News of the World dated 05.09.2010
I would like to respond to comments attributed to me by the News of the World today. I wish to stress I have never been approached by the NOTW and neither did I approach anyone connected with the News of the World to disclose any allegations concerning the Pakistan cricket team or any other players.
The incident which was largely inaccurately reported in the News of the World today was when I was having dinner with a friend at the Holiday Inn Nottingham on the evening of Monday 30th August 2010. I was then approached by a man who introduced himself as Abid Khan and offered that he would arrange a sponsorship deal for me with ETIHAD Airways. I have now seen a photograph of the so called Abid Khan and have discovered that he is Mazher Mahmood.
Naturally I was interested in what he had to say and we began conversation. He offered me at least £50,000 for the deal, which was for 6”x3” ETIHAD sticker at the back of the cricket bat plus TV and billboard advertisements in the UAE. He also asked me for names of 4 more players who may be interested in a similar deal I thought of Umar Gul, Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal and Fawad Alam.
I also called Umar Gul during this conversation to tell him about this potential contract deal and he agreed that I should continue with the negotiations.
Then Abid Khan started asking about the current match fixing allegations and as I saw him as a friend and a potential agent I naively started to answer his questions. He asked me about the match fixing allegations against the current 3 Pakistani players and if I had any further knowledge. As far as I can recall I only told him whatever I had already read in the newspapers about this matter.
It seems that Abid had a hidden camera which I was totally unaware of.
I then left the hotel with my friend and came back to where I was staying. Two days later Abid then called me and offered me £25,000 to give a statement against the 3 current players under investigation, which I immediately refused and put the phone down. I neither called nor answered any calls from Abid after this conversation. When News of the World released my conversation, which Abid Khan recorded without me knowing about it, I was contacted by the media in Pakistan to confirm if I gave the statement to the NOTW, I denied categorically as explained above that this was not the case. Subsequently, I received a text message from Abid Khan from his number 078 6010 9876*, which I found to be intimidating as reflected in his message reproduced below:
“Pls call me. Incidentally you are in video drinking wine and saying all the quotes attributed to you. Denying it is just stupid as we will be releasing the video to tv. Better that you stand up and speak the truth!!!!.”
However, I decided not to respond or react. I brought the matter to the attention of PCB.
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*Sportingintelligence called this number this evening, and the call went through to a Metropolitan Police call handling line. A Met Police spokesman said: “As far as I know, it’s not a Met Police phone and in my experience no Met Police phone would divert [where it did].”
The likeliest scenario is that whoever owned the phone (Mahmood?) set it to forward calls to the Met line. Later it was unobtainable.