Mahmood denies phone hacking in spot-fixing sting

Journalist Mahmood denies claims that his investigation into spot-fixing began after he hacked into Majeed's phone

The former investigations editor at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid denied yesterday that his story allegedly exposing spot-fixing in Pakistan cricket was the result of phone hacking.

Spotted: Former Pakistan skipper Salman Butt (left) with agent Mazhar
Majeed in UK last year.

Giving evidence at the trial in a London court of former Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif, undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood said his probe was founded on "insinuating text messages".

Under cross-examination by defence lawyers, Mahmood repeatedly and vehemently insisted that voicemail interception -- the illegal practice which led to the tabloid's closure -- played no part in the story.

Saying his source would remain confidential, Mahmood told Southwark Crown Court it was someone whom he had known for years and had received payment for the tip-off after publication.

"They were insinuating text messages which showed these guys had been doing this for a long time," said Mahmood, who is testifying from behind a screen after the judge banned descriptions of his appearance because his security could be compromised.

"I can't go into the details of how the information was obtained," he said, to protect the source, adding that the defence lawyers were "assuming it's downloaded from a telephone" without the owner's knowledge.

"This story had nothing to do with phone hacking... I hope that the guys who are responsible for that go down," he said.

He said he "categorically" knew that the phone of Mazhar Majeed, an agent for several Pakistan players and the main subject of the investigation, had not been hacked, as the number was only known to very few.

He added that he was "very sad" that phone hacking had overshadowed the good work the News of the World had done.

Murdoch closed the News of the World in July as the phone-hacking scandal erupted following revelations that the weekly tabloid had hacked the voicemails of a murdered British schoolgirl. Prosecutors allege Butt and Asif agreed for no-balls to be bowled as part of a spot-fixing.

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