1 Dec 2015

It's been hell, says cleared Cairns

8:56 am on 1 December 2015

Former Black Cap Chris Cairns has been cleared of perjury and says he's now "off for a beer" to celebrate.

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Photo: AFP

After an eight-week London trial, the 45-year-old former international cricketer was found not guilty of charges of lying under oath about match fixing in a 2012 libel case.

He was also cleared of another charge of perverting the course of justice along with co-accused Andrew Fitch-Holland, an English barrister.

Justice Sweeney, in his 55,000 word summing up, told the seven women and five men of the jury the case boiled down to one critical issue: "Whether the prosecution makes you sure he [Cairns] was a cheat."

After 10 hours and 17 minutes of deliberation over three days, the jury at Southwark Crown Court delivered its majority verdict of not guilty just before midnight (NZT).

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Chris Cairns outside court after hearing his not guilty verdict. Photo: AFP

Cairns stood emotionless as the foreman said the two words that would make him a free man, while his co-defendant held his head in his hands in relief. Mr Fitch-Holland knew that if the jury found Cairns not guilty of perjury they would have to clear them both of the second count.

Later, speaking to media outside the court Cairns said he had not quite heard the foreman. "So when I saw Fitch's face and the jubilation there, it obviously came home to roost what had occurred."

He said he "couldn't be more happier" with the result but acknowledged it was not a victory as such. "A case like this, I don't think there are any winners, it's been hell for everyone involved."

The perjury charge stemmed from a libel case Cairns successfully took in 2012 against the former chair of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi, who had tweeted Cairns had been involved in match fixing.

In that case, Cairns said under oath: "I have never, ever cheated at cricket. Nor would I ever contemplate such a thing."

The prosecution argued Cairns did cheat at cricket and built its case on testimonies from Cairns' former teammates - Black Cap captain Brendon McCullum and disgraced New Zealand batsman Lou Vincent.

In court, McCullum and Vincent said Cairns propositioned them in 2008 to fix for upwards of $US50,000 a game. McCullum said he refused two approaches, but Vincent said he fixed five games on "direct orders" from Cairns.

Cairns told reporters he did not think his ex-teammates gave evidence against him with "malicious intent." He said the case against him was based on preconceived ideas that were not true.

"I think Mr Pownall summed it up very well when he said there was perhaps a confirmation bias or an assumption of guilt."

Cairns enjoyed a 17-year cricket career, notching up 62 test caps and 215 for one-day internationals. Since retiring in 2006 he has been involved in commentating and coaching, however he now says he will never work in cricket again. "Reputationally I'm completely scorched, burnt completely. But it hasn't stopped me and it won't stop me."

Cairns said he did not have any careers plans, but as for today - "I'm off for a beer."

Modi looms

The shadow of Lalit Modi, the millionaire Indian businessman who Cairns successfully sued in the High Court in 2012, still looms large over Cairns.

Modi has a civil claim in the pipeline against Cairns to overturn the High Court judgement. He responded immediately after the verdict with a statement saying he's considering how the result affects him.

The threshold in civil cases is "on the balance of probabilities", a lower standard than in criminal cases where it is "beyond reasonable doubt".

When asked about Modi outside court, Cairns said he'd think about him "next week."

McCullum's lawyer said the not guilty verdict did not mean the jury did not believe the Black Caps captain.

Garth Gallaway said McCullum was a credible witness.

"The judge said that to convict him of perjury they had to believe two witnesses. I thought Justice Sweeney's summing up was strongly slanted towards the fact that McCullum was credible and he should be believed, and the issue possibly came down to the other two witnesses."

New Zealand Cricket has acknowledged the decision, but said it was related to a criminal charge brought by British police, and was not a match-fixing investigation conducted by a cricketing body.

In a statement, it said it accepted and respected the judgement, and will study it more closely when full details become available.

But chairman Stuart Heal told Morning Report he would not rule out Cairns being an ambassador for the game.

He said the case had been unpleasant for everybody but it was not the right time to discuss Cairns' future.

"He is one of our great all-time cricketers. Today, he has said 'no, I'm not going to be involved in cricket again' and I understand that reaction today, but I never say never."

How the case unfolded

This timeline shows how events unfolded - from when Chris Cairns retired from international cricket in February 2006 to the end of the eight-week trial where he was charged perjury relating to his 2012 libel trial with Lalit Modi.

February 2006: Chris Cairns retires from international cricket.

2007: Cairns joins the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL). Captains the Chandigarh Lions in 2007 and 2008 in the ICL, a team which includes former Black Caps team-mates Lou Vincent and Daryl Tuffey.

2008: Cairns has his contract terminated after three games of the third edition of the ICL. Officials said the reason was his failure to disclose an injury.

2008: Cairns plays for Nottinghamshire in the English Twenty20 cup competition before retiring from cricket at the end of 2008.

January 2010: Former Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi alleges on Twitter that Cairns was involved in match fixing during the 2008 season of the ICL, while captain of the Chandigarh Lions.

March 2012: Cairns successfully sues Modi for libel. He wins $174,000 in damages and $775,000 in court costs. The circumstances of Cairns' exit from the now defunct ICL in 2008 is a major focus of the libel case.

December 2013: Cairns, along with two fellow former Black Caps Lou Vincent and Daryl Tuffey, are named in international media reports as being subject to an ICC investigation over allegations of match-fixing. Soon after, Vincent and Tuffey publicly say they are co-operating with investigators while Cairns complains he is being "kept in the dark". Tuffey has repeatedly denied any involvement in match fixing.

March 2014: London based barrister Andrew Fitch-Holland, who gave evidence on Cairns' behalf at the 2012 trial, is arrested by London's Metropolitan Police under suspicion of perverting the course of justice in relation to the libel case.

27 March 2014: Cairns confirms that British police have finally contacted him over allegations of match fixing.

14 May 2014: Britain's Telegraph newspaper reports that former Black Cap Lou Vincent has provided the ICC's anti-corruption unit "with a treasure trove of information about matches which were targeted for spot-fixing and the names of players" involved.

May 2014: In the days following, British media publish excerpts of leaked confidential statements from Vincent and current New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum. McCullum's sworn evidence is that "Player X" approached him in India, then England, in 2008 to fix.

30 May 2014: Cairns returns from London after being interviewed by the Metropolitan Police, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the ICC's anti-corruption unit. Cairns says it is extraordinary that Brendon McCullum took three years to report a conversation in which he claims Cairns tried to involve him in match fixing.

July 2014: Lou Vincent stuns the cricketing world by admitting to fixing while at the Chandigarh Lions in 2008, then in the England Counties scene, and during Auckland Aces matches in the 2012 Champions League in South Africa. Hours later Vincent is banned for life by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

25 September 2014: Cairns is formally charged by the Metropolitan Police for perjury relating to his 2012 libel trial with Lalit Modi. At the same time London barrister Andrew Fitch-Holland is charged with one count of perverting the course of justice. New Zealand Cricket says the perjury charges laid against Cairns are separate to the match fixing investigation being carried out by the ICC.

January 2015: At a plea and case management hearing Cairns and Andrew Fitch-Holland plead not guilty to their respective charges.

8 October 2015: The prosecution opens its case at the Southwark Crown Court in London, telling the court Cairns approached McCullum to fix games for up to $US180,000 a time.

13 October 2015: Lou Vincent appears as a witness saying he fixed five cricket games under Cairns' orders. Cairns' defence lawyer Orlando Pownall QC put it to Vincent that his account of events had changed over the years and that he had lied on numerous occasions, to which Vincent replied: "I've been a disgraceful human being."

16 October 2015: New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum tells the jury Cairns twice approached him about match fixing in 2008 offering him up to $US180,000 a game. McCullum said he was shocked when he was first approached and said 'no' but it was not until February 2011 that he made an official complaint to the ICC's anti-corruption unit.

20 October 2015: Lou Vincent's former wife Eleanor Riley told the court that Cairns reassured her the cricketers would not get caught fixing games, saying "everybody in India did it."

23 October 2015: Former New Zealand cricket captain Daniel Vettori tells the court he made a genuine mistake about the date on which McCullum first told him he was approached by Cairns about match fixing. Vettori said he did not realise he was obliged to report third-party approaches until an anti-corruption training day in 2011.

Chris Cairns arriving for defence closing.

Chris Cairns arriving for defence closing. Photo: RNZ / Cushla Norman

4 November 2015: Taking his place in the witness box for the first time, Cairns rejects all accusations of match fixing.

6 November 2015: Cairns accused of receiving wads of cash from Dubai diamond magnates in exchange for match-fixing.

7 November 2015: Cairns' co-defendant Andrew Fitch-Holland tells the court that he had no reason to believe, nor did he currently believe, that Chris Cairns was involved in match fixing.

13 November 2015: The prosecution ends its closing argument with a stinging attack on Cairns saying he has made a mockery of the game.

25 November 2015: The jury retires to consider its verdict. Justice Sweeney tells the jury to consider the perjury charge first and that the "critical issue" in determining the perjury verdict is whether the prosecution had convinced the jury Cairns was a cheat. Justice Sweeney said if Cairns was found not guilty of perjury, he also must be found not guilty of perverting the course of justice.

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