CRIMES against cricket – commonly called match-fixing, now back in the spotlight following revelations by Lou Vincent – are legal in South Africa.
Two weeks ago, former New Zealand batsman Vincent said the Champions League T20 that was played in this country in October 2012 had been stained by the scourge. However, even if that claim was to be proved it seems the perpetrators would not attract the authorities’ attention.
“There is no specific law in our country against match-fixing; that’s why Hansie [Cronje] managed to get away,” Enver Mall, a lawyer who has served SA cricket as a match referee and a national selector, said yesterday. That raises the spectre of South Africa becoming a refuge for fugitives from the law in countries that have taken a tougher stance against the practice.
Last July in India, where betting on cricket is big business despite being outlawed, charges were brought against deceased SA captain Cronje – whose involvement with cricket’s underworld was exposed in 2000.
In New Zealand, legislation to criminalise match-fixing is being pushed through parliament to be in force before next year’s World Cup in Australasia.
Jail already looms for match-fixers in Britain, where Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt were put behind bars in November, 2011 for “conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments” after agreeing to bowl no-balls with specific deliveries during the Lord’s test between England and Pakistan in August 2010.
In sentencing them, Judge Jeremy Cooke said, “The image and integrity of what was once a game but is now a business is damaged in the eyes of all…”
Cooke’s powerful words will have resonated with cricket aficionados everywhere, but they would carry no weight in a South African court. Or, as Mall said: “A primary law has to have been broken before someone can be charged with conspiracy – conspiracy to commit murder, for instance.”
Perhaps the only avenue for justice for match-fixers in South Africa lies in fraud charges. But while a case of fraud could be opened, Mall said, “fraud is one of the most difficult crimes to prove”.
Betting on sport is legal in this country, but the International Centre for Sport Security say that 80% of the $140-billion (R1.45-trillion) spent on the practice worldwide annually is invested illegally.
Rebel-era SA wicketkeeper Ray Jennings was not convinced that legislation was the most effective weapon. Instead of relying on the state, he said, cricket should police itself.
Article by – Telford Vice