LONDON: Cricketers suspected of match-fixing face being forced to hand over their mobile phones to the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit (ACU) under fresh plans to tackle those seeking to fix matches or elements of them.
Ronnie Flanagan, the chairman of the ACU, said he would be asking the ICC’s board for new powers because illegal activity between players and bookmakers was increasingly being organised on the dark web — as well as sites such as WhatsApp and Snapchat — rather than through telephone conversations.
Under current ICC rules, the anti-corruption unit can request information from players, including phone records, while players also have to hand over their phones to officials before each day’s play to stop them communicating with match-fixers.
However, Flanagan believes these regulations are now insufficient because they do not allow investigators to download information stored on phones or scrutinise messages, which are often sent before play begins.
Flanagan said: “There is no ground for complacency whatever. These corruptors have demonstrated their ingenuity and determination to keep trying to get at players and match officials and therefore we must be continually active in thwarting their intentions.
“We are constantly exploring how they attempt to communicate with players — including the use of various social media networks, WhatsApp, Snapchat and the dark web — and we have to keep ahead of these things.”
Flanagan has already had informal talks with some ICC members and expects his proposal to be considered by the ICC board in early 2017. He is also hopeful that they will get the support of players’ unions, despite initial concerns they might have about privacy issues.
“Seeking the ability to take the devices and download them to see what communications had been made upon them, like tennis does already, is something I would only contemplate after getting the board’s approval and after consultation with the players unions.”
He added: “People often suggest we should do more things which would tend to make us more like a police force. But we have only the powers vested in us that the international board gives us.
“They give us those powers after consultation with the players and I think that’s absolutely right.”
Flanagan’s proposal for tougher powers to investigate potential match-fixers comes in the week that the South Africa batsman Alviro Petersen, who played 57 international matches up to January last year, was charged with match-fixing by his country’s governing body as part of an investigation into corruption under which five individuals have already been banned.
Over the past decade the Pakistan trip Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir and their agent Mazhar Majeed went to prison after spot-fixing elements of the 2010 Lord’s Test, while their compatriot Danish Kaneria was also banned for life after being found guilty of corruption by a disciplinary panel in relation to the spot-fixing case involving the former Essex pace bowler Mervyn Westfield, who was jailed and given a five-year ban.
But despite these successful prosecutions, Flanagan conceded there was a risk “the wider world could become complacent” about match-fixing. It is also understood that cricket’s authorities are well aware that the harder they make the international game to corrupt, the greater the likelihood criminals will turn to softer targets such as Twenty20 competitions and national league games.
Flanagan also revealed that he is close to finalising a memorandum of understanding with the National Crime Agency — Britain’s equivalent of the FBI — to share information which will make it easier to identify corrupt activity and said the cricketing authorities at all levels remained fully committed to tackling corruption
“There is an absolute will to do this,” he said. “In my time at the anti-corruption unit, any resources I have ever sought from the ICC board have been provided to me. There has never been any question of me being denied resources required to deal with the problem.”—The Guardian