Three Pakistan cricketers have been questioned by detectives over text messages, phone calls and secret bank accounts linked to alleged match-fixing.
Mohammad Amir, the teenage bowler seen as one of the game’s most exciting talents, spent almost five hours on Friday being interviewed under caution.
He was asked about a message he allegedly sent to Mazhar Majeed – the agent arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers – last Friday, saying “Shall I do it or not?”
Hours later, it is claimed, he deliberately bowled a no-ball in the Fourth Test at Lord’s. Captain Salman Butt and bowler Mohammad Asif were also questioned.
They were asked about secret accounts in Swiss and British banks, which, according to the News of the World investigation, Mr Majeed said he had set up in their names.
Sources said that the role of Butt, interviewed last by the Scotland Yard detectives, was under closest scrutiny.
It has been reported that £50,000 cash was found in his room by police but he said the money, some in foreign currency, was to pay a dowry for his sister. Police are investigating whether the notes were those handed over by an undercover reporter.
It is believed that Asif has also told investigators that it was Butt who first introduced the players to Mr Majeed, his agent, several years ago.
Sir Ronnie Flanagan, head of the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit, said that, having seen the evidence, all the players “have a really arguable case to answer in our disciplinary arena”.
Further revelations this weekend are expected to focus on four more Pakistan cricketers, and claims that the team would deliberately lose two coming one-day matches.
The scandal is being investigated worldwide by five agencies, including federal authorities in Pakistan and Britain’s Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca).
It emerged on Friday evening that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs started looking into Mr Majeed’s tax affairs months ago and tapped his phone. They were apparently suspicious of phone calls abroad talking about cricket matches, and tipped off officials.
The disclosure will lead to questions about how long police and cricket authorities knew about the allegations.
As part of the Metropolitan police inquiry into the Lord’s incident, Amir was questioned at Kilburn police station in north London yesterday.
The 18 year-old was questioned in the presence of his solicitor over an alleged phone call from Mr Majeed the night before the Lord’s match about bowling no-balls.
According to the News of the World, Mr Majeed also said that, before play on the second day, Amir texted him to say: ‘Shall I do it or not?’
He then bowled a no-ball in the third ball of the third over, as ordered by Mr Majeed, according to the paper. Asif was questioned next, for two hours. Detectives deliberately left Butt to last. All three players protested their innocence. None was arrested and they were released without charge.
Mr Majeed, 35, was arrested and bailed earlier this week pending further inquiries by Scotland Yard. He is said to deny the allegations. Scotland Yard sources said they were still in the “early days” of a “long and complex” inquiry.
Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s High Commissioner, has said the players will remain as long as is required “to clear their names”.