Source - The Telegraph
South African cricket is bracing itself for its biggest match-fixing scandal since the Hansie Cronje affair as the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit closes in on a former South Africa Test player thought to be the ring leader in attempts to corrupt the recent Ram Slam Twenty20 competition.
Investigators from the ACU have been working for weeks on a complex case that is expected to become public once the Test series against England is completed.
The case will be a huge test for Cricket South Africa and the ICC which is helping the local authorities with their investigation.
CSA have declined to comment apart from releasing one statement on Dec 16 announcing they had suspended an “intermediary” who was “contriving to fix, or otherwise improperly influence aspects" of the Ram Slam, South Africa’s domestic Twenty20 competition.
Reports in South Africa state one former Test cricketer has been charged and a franchise team investigated, with other players facing disciplinary action for failing to report corrupt approaches.
The former Test player could face jail under South African law. The ACU is in the process of agreeing memorandums of understanding with police in England and South Africa that will allow them to share intelligence. A formal link would also enable the ACU to benefit from the extra investigatory powers the police have at their disposal.
In December, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the chairman of the ICC’s ACU, told Telegraph Sport his unit was engaged in a “series of ongoing” investigations with one, believed to be this South Africa probe, at an advanced stage.
Earlier this week it was revealed that a Hong Kong cricketer due to play in the forthcoming World Twenty20 had been charged with an anti-corruption offence after being approached by the same fixer who paid Lou Vincent.
All-rounder Irfan Ahmed, 26, is facing a possible two-year ban if found guilty of failing to report an approach by a known fixer.
In his recent interview, Flanagan also warned of the danger of corruption at associate level and the women’s game. Matches are often televised and it is far easier to gain access to the players.
“The harder international cricket is made as a target the bigger the risk of displacement towards domestic games and lower levels of international cricket," he said. "For the bad guys to succeed they want an event that is televised, then they can go about their illegal betting."
The Ram Slam was shown live in India, from where almost all cricket corruption emanates. A recent report into fixing in the IPL recommended legalising gambling in India to help combat the problem of fixing.
Regulating the underground betting market in India would help cricket’s corruption fight but would need political support that has never been present before.
The Ram Slam struggled to attract crowds and does not have the financial muscle to attract big-name overseas players, with Kevin Pietersen its only real star.
The last thing the South Africa authorities need is for the tournament to be tainted by scandal, but there is also a strong desire at the ICC to prove they can root out corruption and punish the guilty.