A Hong Kong international cricketer set to play in this year's World Twenty20 Cup has been charged with corruption after being approached by one of the same alleged fixers who paid Lou Vincent to cheat in county matches in England.
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported this morning that Irfan Ahmed, 26, faces a possible ban of between two and five years if found guilty of the anti-corruption offence after an allegation he failed to report to authorities an offer made to him by an alleged match-fixer.
The Sydney Morning Herald named a Pakistani cricketer Nasem Gulzar as the man who approached all rounder Ahmed who was set to represent Hong Kong in the World T20 Cup in India in March.
Gulzar, who did not represent Pakistan during his career, left Hong Kong several years ago, but is believed to have nurtured Ahmed while playing local cricket there. Gulzar was named in the Chris Cairns perjury trial last October when Vincent claimed he fixed matches in the now defunct Indian Cricket League and in county cricket under the instruction of the former Black Caps star.
Cairns was found not guilty but during the case the court was told that Vincent was paid £60,000 ($NZ140,000) by Gulzar and a fixing agent, Varum Gandhi, for underperforming in a T20 match between Sussex and Kent in August 2011.
In the county match, Vincent batted very slowly during Sussex's run-chase along with teammate Navid Arif. Surrey lost and the court was told Vincent gave £15,000 to Arif who is an associate of Gulzar.
The Hong Kong Cricket Association said it was "unable to comment in the circumstances".
Ahmed has played six ODIs and eight T20 internationals for Hong Kong but has not played since the end of October after withdrawing from playing for personal reasons.
The charging of Ahmed has shocked the cricket community in Hong Kong who are ranked 11th in the world in T20 cricket and will play the likes of England and South Africa at the World T20 in March if the team makes it way through the preliminary stages.
And the Sydney Morning Herald reported it could also have far wider reaching implications with the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit understood to be continuing a probe into illegal bookmaking networks, and in particular their targeting of players in associate nations.
Ahmed has engaged a Hong Kong-based Australian lawyer Kevin Egan who has spoken in defence of his client.
Egan said Ahmed had been charged with failing to report an approach "from a former Pakistani cricketer in Hong Kong", and there was no suggestion at all he had been involved in corruption.
"[The former cricketer] was like a father figure to him and [Ahmed] was approached with a corrupt offer which he rejected. But the only criminality alleged against him by the ICC was simply having failed to report that approach," Egan told the SMH.
"At the moment we're in negotiations with the ICC and those negotiations have not yet concluded. I expect that within the next couple of weeks we will have come to a conclusion."
Under the ICC anti-corruption code, it is an offence to fail to report a corrupt approach or knowledge of one.
In an interview last month with London's Daily Telegraph, the chairman of their investigative branch, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, warned of the corruption threat to lower level cricket including in associate nations, where players could be targeted because of their low wages.
Hong Kong's nine contracted players earn between $HK9000 ($1600) and $HK11,000 ($NZ2500) a month.
"The harder international cricket is made as a target the bigger the risk of displacement towards domestic games and lower levels of international cricket," Flanagan said. "For the bad guys to succeed they want an event that is televised then they can go about their illegal betting."