Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Career at stake for Cairns' arrested pal

Chris Cairns has always denied any involvement in match fixing. Photo / APN
Chris Cairns has always denied any involvement in match fixing. Photo / APN

The lawyer of Chris Cairns' friend Andrew Fitch-Holland has spoken for the first time about his client's arrest and release from custody on suspicion of perverting the course of justice - saying Fitch-Holland was innocent; that the police were "fishing" and that their inquiries were directed at an allegation his client had tried to coerce a false statement from at least one cricketer.

The charge relates to the 2012 libel case involving Cairns and the former boss of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi. In January 2010 Modi accused Cairns of match-fixing in the short-lived Indian Cricket League during 2008.

Cairns won the case and has denied any wrongdoing.

Cairns is one of three former New Zealand cricketers being investigated in relation to match and spot-fixing. The others are Lou Vincent and Daryl Tuffey. The three played together for the Chandigarh Lions in the ICL.

The Herald on Sunday spoke briefly to Fitch-Holland who directed enquiries to lawyer Tony Wyatt of the British firm Ewing Law. If the allegations are proven, they would end Fitch-Holland's legal career. Both parties are forbidden by bail conditions from contacting Cairns.

Fitch-Holland was questioned by the Metropolitan Police for an hour after volunteering to come to their Charing Cross station on Wednesday. He handed over his mobile phone, laptop and a variety of other documents.

Wyatt says his client denies the charge: "Andrew is a practising barrister but not Chris' [official] lawyer. He's a trusted friend who was involved in a couple of commercial ventures with him.

"He fully accepts he helped Chris prepare the [Modi] case. As far as he's concerned, there was nothing untoward about Chris' conduct regarding the match alleged to be fixed. Whether that's true is not necessarily here or there because, in his case, if there was something going on he was unaware of it.

"He was working entirely from what he was told by a man who'd been his friend and, in many ways, a business partner for years. We intend to go through all the material given to the police, of which we have copies, to demonstrate this is a man who was, if anything, doing a mate a favour. I can't say anything about whether there is truth in the allegations about Chris Cairns. There is no way for us to tell."

Wyatt says Cairns approached Fitch-Holland to deal with the original defamation case. Fitch-Holland wasn't a libel expert so recommended a specialist defamation firm called Collyer Bristow which Cairns used.

"He [Fitch-Holland] provided assistance and a shoulder to lean on as he approached potential witnesses on the instructions of Chris through Chris' lawyers. He has now found himself under arrest on suspicion of perverting the course of justice which is a serious offence for anybody, but particularly for a practising barrister."

"The allegation is to the effect he tried to coerce false testimony from at least one cricketer. It suggests, given the nature of the offence, he must have known the cricketer was lying. That's as much detail as they [the police] have gone into with us.

"Unusually we were given no material in the form of disclosure beforehand to put the allegations in context. There was no way to know what he was supposed to have said or when he said it. He just sat there blindly answering questions. He co-operated as much as he could.

"It's difficult to say who was involved given how little disclosure we had as to who was spoken to, when they were spoken to and what was said. We were given an excerpt of a conversation transcript without knowing where it was from or who it was with. Andrew wasn't allowed to read a passage, he was just given a line here and there, so couldn't put it into context.

"This charge is particularly bad for a lawyer because, if proven, it'd be the end of their career. Anyone convicted of that offence in the UK would almost certainly go to prison. Why would somebody take that risk just to do a favour for a mate? [If it goes to trial] he would argue 'why would I risk losing my career when there is nothing to be gained?; I was just helping my friend'. He's nearly 50 years old and has trained and practised for a long time. A conviction would end his professional life."

Wyatt says Fitch-Holland will go back to practising after his release.

"The arrest is just a way of ensuring you don't walk out when you've had enough of the questioning. There just has to be reasonable suspicion, which is far from guilt. It smacked of a fishing expedition by the police. If there was a case to advance, normally we'd get told what that is.

"However, the bail conditions mean even though Andrew's not charged he cannot contact Chris Cairns directly or indirectly. That means I can't contact Chris' lawyers either, so we're a bit in the dark. However, provided he's at liberty it should have no effect on his practice."

Regarding Fitch-Holland's arrest, Cairns said on Thursday it would be inappropriate to comment on someone else's legal situation.

"We need to respect the process and keep an open mind to allow it to play out. I haven't spoken to him. All I can do is reiterate how complex these things are."

Cairns and his wife were spoken to by authorities at their home about the alleged match-fixing scandal on Wednesday night. The former all-rounder said the conversation was "light on agenda and details". Cairns has always denied any involvement in match fixing.

- Herald on Sunday

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