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Feb 18, 2012 at 10:46pm IST

Kaneria pleads innocence in fixing

Lahore: Pakistan leg-spinner Danish Kaneria on Saturday maintained his innocence in the spot-fixing case which ended in his Essex county teammate Mervyn Westfield being jailed for four months.

The two players were arrested by Essex police in May 2010 on suspicion of spot-fixing during a county match against Durham in 2009.

Kaneria was released and not charged but Westfield pleaded guilty to spot-fixing charges in January this year, and was sentenced by a London court on Friday, when the Pakistani was named as the middleman in the plot.

Kaneria pleads innocence in fixing case

"I am completely innocent from day one. All allegations against me are false," Kaneria said.

"I am completely innocent from day one. All allegations against me are false," Kaneria, 31, told reporters after the first day's play in the domestic Pentangular Cup final in Lahore, where he captained the Sindh provincial team.

At the Old Bailey Westfield admitted receiving £6,000 ($9,200) to bowl so that 12 runs would be scored in the first over of the contest, although in the event only 10 were conceded.

Prosecutors said the player had been lured into the fix after an approach by Kaneria.

Kaneria claimed he was cleared by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

"The Essex police cleared me and I have clearance certificates from both the ECB and ICC, so I am not feeling any pressure. I am just enjoying my cricket.

"Westfield is a convicted fraudster and admitted liar. In trying to reduce his own guilt he has tarnished my name."

Kaneria's brother Vinay also released a statement on his brother's behalf, saying Kaneria was released and had not been charged, and had fully co-operated with the investigation.

"In explaining the circumstances of Westfield's case to the court, the Crown Prosecution Service reiterated to the court that after intensive investigations the British police concluded that there was no evidence on which to charge Kaneria," the statement said.

It "vehemently denied" that Kaneria was involved in Westfield's actions.

"It was quite clear that Westfield would say anything to avoid a custodial sentence. In court he attempted to portray himself as a naive and vulnerable person who was easily lead astray," the statement added.

Kaneria, only the second Hindu to play for Pakistan, is the fourth highest wicket-taker for Pakistan in Tests with 261, the highest by any spinner.

But the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has blocked him from playing international cricket since October 2010, when its Integrity Committee did not clear him to face South Africa.

He challenged the decision in court but his case was dismissed in November last year.

Earlier on Saturday, the PCB said it would seek evidence from the relevant authorities in Britain before taking any action against Kaneria.

"Since Kaneria is a Pakistan player we are obviously looking into the matter with a lot of concern," its legal adviser Taffazul Rizvi told AFP.

"Since the match was an England domestic match, it's in the England board's jurisdiction and we will seek evidence from the concerned authorities.

"Once it comes we can only then summon him before the Integrity Committee of the PCB where his case is still pending."

Rizvi added: "The stance of the PCB is one of zero tolerance towards any player with questionable integrity. The judgment of Westfield raised a lot of questions but in law everybody is innocent until proven guilty."

Kaneria's implication in the Westfield case is the latest blow to Pakistani cricket after a spot-fixing scandal on the team's tour of England in 2010 ended in lengthy bans and jail terms for Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir.

That prompted International Cricket Council to force Pakistan to form an Integrity Committee to check players' assets and suspicions against them.

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