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Cricket hit by fresh match-fixing allegations over New Zealand players

By Tim Hume, CNN
May 21, 2014 -- Updated 0548 GMT (1348 HKT)
Former cricketer Chris Cairns in February after it was revealed he was under investigation for match-fixing.
Former cricketer Chris Cairns in February after it was revealed he was under investigation for match-fixing.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fresh details have been revealed over alleged fixing by New Zealand cricket players
  • Testimony by two players to the ICC alleges an international great encouraged them to fix
  • Chris Cairns says he was the player referred to, but denies the allegations
  • Cairns has successfully challenged match-fixing allegations in the courts in the past

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(CNN) -- The cricketing world has been rocked by fresh revelations over alleged fixing by former New Zealand internationals, following the leak of player statements made to a corruption inquiry.

The scandal has prompted ex-Black Caps star Chris Cairns to confirm that he is "Player X" -- the prominent former international accused in the statements of pressuring others to fix in matches -- while rejecting the allegations against him and vowing to clear his name.

"I have not denied I am Player X," he wrote in a series of tweets Tuesday. "It's the allegations I reject... Thanks for all the support out there and to all those who understand that there are bigger forces at play here."

The International Cricket Council's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) has previously confirmed it was conducting an investigation into Cairns and fellow former New Zealand internationals Lou Vincent and Daryl Tuffey.

Cairns, considered one of the game's leading all-rounders in his day, has challenged match-fixing allegations in the courts in the past, and won. In 2012, he sued Indian cricket official and businessman Lalit Modi in a British court, after Modi had tweeted allegations of match-fixing relating to Cairns' stint with the Chandigarh Lions in the short-lived Indian Cricket League (ICL).

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Cairns captained the side in 2007 and 2008, playing alongside Vincent in 2008. Modi, who ran the rival Indian Premier League competition, lost his appeal against the court's decision in October 2012, with damages increased to £90,000 ($147,459).

Tuffey, a bowler who played his last Test for New Zealand in 2010, also denies any involvement in fixing.

In the latest revelations, Vincent is reported to have told ACSU investigators he fixed in at least 12 games in five countries from 2008 to 2012, beginning with his time with the Chandigarh Lions. He then reportedly continued to fix in the English county competition, and the Twenty20 Champions League, using tactics such as changing the color of his bat handle to show that a fix was occurring.

'Hero' and friend

According to the reports, Vincent, 35, identified six other players he believes were involved in fixing, and told investigators he had been drawn into the practice under the influence of a prominent former international -- referred to by the press as Player X -- whom he felt he could not refuse.

New Zealand's current captain Brendon McCullum also reportedly told investigators that a friend and "hero" had twice attempted to persuade him to fix, first in India ahead of the start of the inaugural Indian Premier League in 2008, then shortly afterwards in England during a New Zealand tour.

McCullum reportedly refused the advances, which allegedly included an offer of more than £100,000, and advice on how to launder any illicit gains through the purchase of property in Dubai.

New Zealand Cricket CEO David White stressed that McCullum was not under investigation by the ICC, and expressed dismay his testimony had been leaked to media.

"I can confirm that Brendon is not under investigation by the ICC and in fact his testimony has been applauded by them," White said.

"He was approached to match-fix, he has refused that and reported it to the ICC. Brendan has done the right thing. We believe this is brave and courageous, and he has shown a great example as an international captain."

Heath Mills, chief executive of the New Zealand Cricket Players' Association, also criticized the leak of the players' statements, saying it "completely undermines any trust or confidence players may have in cricket's anti-corruption systems."

'A complete lie'

In response to the claims, Cairns issued a statement describing the allegations against him as a "complete lie."

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"Lou Vincent... appears to have confessed to match fixing in respect of games played in numerous countries around the world, most of which I have had no connection to," read the statement from the 43-year-old, who made his Test debut in 1989 and played his last one-day international in 2006.

"He is in a desperate position. He faces potential prosecution and in trying to negotiate a plea bargain he appears to be willing to falsely accuse me of wrongdoing."

In regard to McCullum's allegations, he wrote: "I have no idea why he would say the things he is alleged to have said. To be clear, I have never approached Brendon, or anyone else, about match-fixing or any other improper activity.

"I have nothing to hide."

The son of former New Zealand cricket great Lance Cairns, Cairns played for New Zealand's test and one-day team and captained the side on a number of occasions.

CNN affiliate TVNZ reported that Vincent's ex-wife had also testified to investigators that Cairns was the ringleader behind the alleged ICL fixing, providing a sworn statement to ACSU that said: "Lou said Chris was going to pay him US$50,000 a game for the fixing."

TVNZ reported she said Vincent had met a stranger with a briefcase full of money in India, and that she and her husband "fell out about the whole ICL fixing thing, as I didn't want him to be involved, but Lou kept saying, 'Don't worry we're all doing it.'"

She claimed her ex-husband had once called her in tears, saying he owed hundreds of thousands of dollars after his attempts to fix had gone wrong, TVNZ reported.

Lily-white?

New Zealand regularly ranks as one of the world's least corrupt countries, recently topping Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index alongside Denmark.

New Zealand sportswriter Joseph Romanos said the allegations of corruption surrounding celebrated athletes in the country's summer game had come as a shock to many.

"New Zealanders, perhaps unrealistically, think of themselves as fairly lily-white in terms of match-fixing and banned drugs in sport," he told CNN. "It's always a huge shock when someone's done -- although when you catalog it all, we can mix it with the best of them on the wrong side of the line."

Australian cricket writer Gideon Haigh said New Zealand players may have been targeted for approaches as the country had had the highest number of defectors to the "rebel" ICL competition, and were "comparatively speaking poorly paid by international standards."

"I guess they were the first targets of ICL recruiting agents and therefore became exposed to a tournament where really nothing hinged on the outcome and the amounts being paid were far more than the individual players were worth," he told CNN.

"Nothing is more conducive to corruption than meaningless cricket, and sums of money that are odds with the scale and importance of the game."

Recent scandals

International cricket has been plagued by the specter of match-fixing in recent years, with three Pakistani players banned by the ICC and sentenced by a British court for spot fixing during a Test match against England at Lord's in 2010.

In August last year, seven were charged in Bangladesh with match-fixing; former national captain Mohammad Ashraful had previously confessed to fixing matches.

And in October, six international umpires were stood down following an India TV expose which alleged officials were willing to fix matches at the recent T20 World Cup in exchange for payment.

Haigh said the game's administrators had failed to keep pace with developments in the south Asian gambling market.

"Under the present climate where vast quantities (of money) have entered the game over the past 10 years and the game is still trying to operate under institutional structures that were devised during the 20th century, I think cricket's got a lot of catching up to do," he said.

He wasn't confident that administrators would tackle the problem anytime soon.

"Frankly, they simply haven't been focused on this. They've been too busy attempting to make money themselves," Haigh said.

"It took a very, very long time for cycling to take seriously the issue of doping. It's amazing how long administrators can stave off doing anything serious."

He said if a broadcaster or major sponsor took a stance on corruption in the game, it could help efforts to driver out fixers. Until then, fans would be left wondering every time they saw something out of the ordinary on the pitch.

"I suppose the worst thing is the not knowing," said Haigh. "Once the hint of corruption enters into cricket, it becomes very difficult for you to take pleasure in its inherent unpredictability."

READ MORE: ICC confirms fixing investigation involving New Zealand cricketers

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