Kaneria handed life ban by ECB
Danish Kaneria has been banned for life from any cricket under the jurisdiction of the ECB after being found guilty of corruption by an ECB disciplinary panel in relation to the spot-fixing case involving Mervyn Westfield. Meanwhile, Westfield was also charged with bringing the game into disrepute under the ECB's regulations, to which he pleaded guilty was given a five-year ban although will be allowed to play club cricket after three years.
Although Kaneria's punishment was handed out by the ECB it is expected to be upheld by boards around the world, including the PCB, which means a likely end to his career. In his ruling Gerard Elias QC said: "We regard Danish Kaneria as a grave danger to the game of cricket and we must take every appropriate step to protect our game from his corrupt activities."
Summing up Kaneria's role, Elias said he exploited his position in the game. "As a senior international player of repute he plainly betrayed the trust reposed in him in his dealings with fellow team mates and we regard his persistent efforts to recruit spot fixers as being a seriously aggravating factor in his case."
Both players were charged in April, in the wake of Westfield's imprisonment in February. Kaneria was implicated in spot-fixing during Westfield's trial at London's Central Criminal Court but denied the allegations.
At the ECB hearing, which lasted for four days, Westfield gave evidence against Kaneria, revealing details about how the former Pakistan legspinner introduced him to an Indian businessman know as Arun or Anu Bhatt. Kaneria, who had been warned about Bhatt's alleged connections to illegal betting, admitted putting the two in contact but claimed he had been trying to distance himself from Bhatt.
However, phone records showed extensive contact between Kaneria and Bhatt in the days leading up to the September 2009 Pro40 match that Westfield accepted money to underperform in. Kaneria's defence that Westfield was not a credible witness, due to his previous conduct, was also rejected.
The disciplinary panel, which consisted of Gerard Elias QC, David Gabbitass and Jamie Dalrymple, concluded: "Danish Kaneria knowingly induced or encouraged Mervyn Westfield not to perform on his merits in the Durham match." He was accordingly found guilty of both charges brought by the ECB, of attempting to induce Westfield to underperform and of bringing the game into disrepute.
The panel were highly critical of Kaneria's evidence. "We consider that in many respects the evidence of Danish Kaneria simply does not stand up to scrutiny and is plainly lies," read the summary of their findings.
As reported during the trial, Westfield was identified as a squad member susceptible to an approach. Kaneria told him "you are young and it is hard to make money; I have a way that you can make money quicker", which led to the setting up of meetings with two "Asian businessmen" and a deal being struck for the match against Durham. Further details emerged of various meetings that took place, including at an Essex nightclub and at a hotel before the match in question, when Westfield agreed to concede a set amount of runs from an over.
It was confirmed that Kaneria had been warned for his links with Bhatt, a man described as being "heavily involved in illegal betting", by the ICC's Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) back in 2008, from which Alan Peacock, the ACSU's senior investigator, provided evidence. Kaneria was revealed to have first met Bhatt in 2005, although he said he came to regard the businessman as a "dangerous" man to be involved with.
The panel, however, disputed Kaneria's suggestion that his contact with Bhatt - who he also provided with tickets for the Durham match - was intended to discourage.
"There is no doubt - and no suggestion to the contrary - that one of the Asian men referred to by Westfield was Anu Bhatt, " the summary said. "Indeed, Danish Kaneria admits introducing Westfield to Bhatt in Dukes nightclub and confirms in his evidence that Bhatt was in Durham and attended the match with tickets obtained by Kaneria for him."
Other evidence against Kaneria was provided by former team-mates at Essex, who recounted that he had on more than one occasion "sought to instigate discussion about spot or match fixing". Criticism was also made of the "many other unsatisfactory aspects to Danish Kaneria's evidence", including his "detailed recollections" of events that he had previously been unclear about.
In summing up the panel said of Kaneria: "We utterly reject his account of the telephone calls and texts to and from Anu Bhatt during the vital days in question. Analysis of the length, sequence and timing of these calls simply does not permit of the innocent explanations given by Kaneria. If, as we find, he is lying about these calls and texts, there can only be one logical reason - to tell the truth would be damning.
"Further, we reject as nonsensical Kaneria's claim that his invitation to Bhatt to attend Dukes nightclub was in order to keep him at arm's length or similarly that obtaining tickets for him in Durham was with the same object. Again, we have no doubt that to tell the truth would implicate Kaneria as the link in the chain between Westfield and Bhatt ... We reject his basic account that he had nothing to do with any arrangement between Westfield and Bhatt - indeed we are sure that he facilitated it."
Westfield, a former Essex fast bowler, was jailed for four months after he admitted underperforming in a Pro40 match against Durham in September 2009. Kaneria, Essex's overseas player for several seasons, was named by the judge at the Old Bailey as the orchestrator of the plot but, although he was arrested at the same time as Westfield in 2010, he was never charged by the police, on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
In reference to Westfield, the findings said: "In summary, we are satisfied that in September 2009 he was both vulnerable and naïve - relatively unworldly and unsophisticated. He may well have been going through a phase of self doubt and anxiety - whether objectively justified or not - about his cricketing future."
The panel also recorded that Westfield "was essentially unwavering in evidence" given to support his account and that they felt he was "plainly telling the truth".
The PCB have indicated they will honour any sanctions handed out by the ECB to Kaneria, who is Pakistan's fourth-highest wicket-taker - and leading spinner - in Tests. At 31 years old, any ban on playing cricket could potentially bring an end to Kaneria's career.