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Prosecutors are re-examining the criminal convictions of three Pakistan players jailed in 2011 over spotfixing allegations, according to a report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, The Guardian said the convictions in a London court of then Pakistan captain Salman Butt, paceman Mohammad Asif and swing bowler Mohammad Aamer, were among 25 cases called into question by the methods of ‘Fake Sheikh’ undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood. Prosecutors dropped on Wednesday a case of alleged match-fixing involving 13 footballers in England because of doubts about the reliability of Mahmood’s evidence.

After the now defunct News of the World revealed the the three Pakistan cricketers had conspired to bowl noballs during a Test match at Lord’s in 2010 in return for a share of £150,000 ($228,207), the trio and their agent Mazher Majeed were arrested. Following the ‘sting’ operation, the three players were banned for a minimum of five years each by the International Cricket Council. At a subsequent separate court hearing in London, they were all given prison sentences. Aamer’s ICC ban is set to expire in August and he could return to international cricket soon afterwards. The case made headlines around the world, appearing to shed light on the contentious issue of illegal and unregulated betting markets in Asia and the Far East.

However, there were those who regarded the jail terms as severe given it appeared no actual bet had been placed. Betting expert Ed Hawkins, the author of ‘Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey to the Heart of Cricket’s Underworld’, was among those to say no Asian syndicate would ever accept a wager on when a specific no-ball would be bowled because it was too easy to manipulate the outcome. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced this week there was “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction” in the footballers’ case following the collapse of pop singer Tulisa Contostavlos’s trial. She was cleared of helping arrange a cocaine deal in July last year after a newspaper sting led by Mahmood, famed for going undercover in traditional Arab dress, hence his ‘Fake Sheikh’ nickname.

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