A former New Zealand representative on an International Cricket Council anti-corruption panel says allegations of match-fixing against three Kiwi cricketers might, if true, amount to the most serious offences in the country's sporting history.
While the Herald understands match-fixing corruption charges have never been tested under New Zealand law, there is legislation available that could be applied - the most serious of which carries a seven-year prison sentence.
Sports lawyer Tim Castle, who was previously New Zealand's representative on the ICC's Code of Conduct/Corruption Commission, told the Herald there could be no doubt about the seriousness of the allegations.
"If these allegations are correct this is as serious as I think we've ever had. On the face of it, it would be more serious than anything to date, that's absolutely for sure.
"This attacks the very fabric of the integrity of sport. It tears at the very heart and essence of integrity in sporting competition. It's on a par with deliberate performance-enhancing drug use in sport generally."
Mr Castle imagined the allegations would have come about after a lengthy investigation.
It would appear the inquiry had now reached "a level of completion such as is considered robust enough for the statements to be made as have been in the last 24 hours", Mr Castle said.
"The procedure that will follow inevitably now is that those against whom these very serious allegations have been made will have the opportunity to address them."
Once the ICC had concluded its inquiry and - should the allegations prove founded - imposed sanctions, the players would be vulnerable to criminal prosecution.
"We do have a variety of charges and rules and regulations that could come into play. I think it has to be accepted that's a possibility, but it's early days yet.
"Crimes at that level carry very strong sanctions," Mr Castle said. "There are discretions available to the courts of law which extend to imprisonment but once you reach that threshold then you've got every range of possible penalty imaginable including fines or other detention-type sentences."
Match-fixing could potentially be covered under both the Crimes Act and the Secret Commissions Act, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said.
Under the Crimes Act, the maximum penalties for anyone found guilty of corruption, bribery and obtaining-by-deception offences is a maximum of seven years' jail and under the Secret Commissions Act, the maximum penalty for anyone found guilty of bribery is a fine of up to $2,000 or two years' jail.
- Additional reporting: Sam Boyer