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LAHORE: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has locked horns with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) over the Pakistan Super League spot-fixing probe with the cricket board insisting it to be solely their domain to investigate the players’ ‘wrongdoings’.

The PCB believes that since no law exists in the country to deal with the spot-fixing offense in cricket, the FIA may face problems in dealing with this case and should therefore restrict itself to only the “criminal aspects” of the case.

It may be mentioned here that the PCB has not yet provided the cellphones of the suspected cricketers — Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif, Mohammad Irfan and Shahzaib Hassan — for forensic examination to the cyber crime wing of the FIA which is proof enough that both institutions are not on the same page for the PSL probe.

“Without forensic examination of the cellphones of the spot-fixing suspects, the probe cannot move an inch further. The four cricketers have recorded their statements with the FIA which are very similar to what they had submitted to the PCB’s anti-corruption unit, thus nothing new can be extracted from them,” a source in the FIA told Dawn on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Sharjeel and Shahzaib appeared before the FIA cyber crime team and recorded their statements. Like Irfan and Khalid, they also denied any involvement in spot-fixing. The FIA had also summoned left-handed opener Nasir Jamshed but was informed that the National Crime Agency UK had confiscated his passport and investigations against him were underway there.

The source said more cricketers might be in the dock once the FIA investigations are finalised. “It has already been transpired that it is not the matter of spot fixing in the PSL 2017 matches alone, but also some other matches and more players could be involved. Forensic examination of the cellphones of these players will provide sufficient lead to reach all those involved in this heinous crime,” he said.

To a question whether the FIA would face problems in retriving the WhatsApp data as the players had already deleted their conversation with the bookies and the Whats App management might not cooperate in this matter, he said: “Forensic examination will be enough to retrieve the data.”

Talking to Dawn, PSL chairman Najam Sethi said he was not against FIA probing into spot-fixing scandal and he never asked the agency to stop its investigation. “I want FIA, which has taken suo motu of the case, to continue with its probe in this matter and should better go after bookies like British Crime Agency does,” he said, adding the PCB had its own rules which are more strict than that of International Cricket Council (ICC).

“Since there has been no law to deal with the spot-fixing here in Pakistan, this matter comes under the domain of PCB’s discipline and conduct and the Board can award exemplary punishment to the guilty players,” explained Sethi.

“The FIA deals with the criminal side of this case and if any such findings come up during the PCB tribunal probe, the FIA will be asked to take action. However, the FIA should better go after bookies and let the PCB deal with the players’ wrongdoings,” he said.

Replying to a question about PCB’s ‘reluctance’ in handing over the players’ cellphones to FIA, Sethi said: “FIA has not asked yet for handing over the players cellphones. We will hand them over to FIA when it does.”

Sethi further said both PCB and FIA would continue their investigation simultaneously. “There has been no tension between PCB and FIA over this matter,” he clarified.

Observing rising tension between the two institutions, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has asked the top officials of PCB and FIA to work together for swift dispensation of justice in the spot-fixing case.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf also jumped into this controversy to criticise PCB Executive Comm­ittee chairman Najam Sethi’s statement asking FIA to ‘stop the PSL spot-fixing probe’.

Submitting a resolution in the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday, PTI MPA Shoaib Saddiqui questioned as why Mr Sethi was against the FIA’s probe into this matter. “The FIA should launch an open investigation against the suspected players and those involved in this heinous crime should be given exemplary punishment,” the resolution demanded.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2017