By ROB HARRIS, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — A judge sentencing an English cricketer to jail Friday accused a Pakistan player of pressuring teammates on his county team to fix matches.
Danish Kaneria was cleared by police of wrongdoing, but the British judge was critical of his role in Mervyn Westfield becoming the first English cricketer to be jailed for on-field corruption.
"Kaneria told you of the possibility of your making large amounts of money for conceding a certain number of runs in a particular over bowled by you in a match," judge Anthony Morris said. "I accept that such an approach was made to you by Kaneria."
Kaneria was warned in 2008 by the International Cricket Council over his connections with a bookmaker involved in illegal betting markets.
"In addition, he had made similar approaches to other Essex players who had laughed them off as a joke," Morris said at the Old Bailey in London. "At first you (Westfield) ignored Kaneria's approach, but similar approaches were made to you on a number of occasions after that until you felt under some pressure to agree."
Westfield, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to four months in prison and suspended by the English and Wales Cricket Board.
The plot, which developed after a meeting at Kaneria's home in August 2009, led to Westfield accepting $9,500 to intentionally concede runs during an internationally televized 40-over English county match against Durham the following month.
Kaneria was to receive $6,300 for facilitating the fixing, the judge said Westfield told former teammate Tony Palladino.
The 31-year-old Kaneria, Pakistan's most successful test spinner, has been suspended by the Pakistan Cricket Board since 2010. He maintains his innocence.
"Such allegations have no strength and it holds no water," lawyer Farogh Naseem told The Associated Press by telephone. "I fail to understand when British police cleared Danish, when ICC cleared Danish, then why now these allegations against him?"
Kaneria, who first joined Essex in 2005, was arrested in connection with the case but later released without charge.
The court was told that other Essex players heard Kaneria mentioning spot-fixing but dismissed what he was saying as "banter".
Westfield is the fourth cricketer in four months to be sent to a British jail for fixing. Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were jailed in November for fixing part of a test match against England in 2010.
Morris told Westfield that "no legal domestic betting market appears to have been compromised by your corrupt agreement." The judge described the scam as a betrayal of trust.
"If, because of corrupt payments, it cannot be guaranteed that every player will play to the best of his ability, the reality is that the enjoyment of many millions of people around the world who watch cricket, whether on television or at cricket grounds, will be destroyed," he said.
The International Cricket Council said it hopes the jail sentence will serve as a "deterrent to anyone who is tempted to sully the good name of cricket."
AP Sports Writer Rizwan Ali contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.