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The BBC's John McIntyre
"Cronje's fans are loyally supporting the man who has brought shame on South African cricket"
 real 28k

Bob Woolmer
"I would feel betrayed if he is found guilty"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 7 June, 2000, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
Cronje inquiry goes public
Lawyer Clem Druker with Hansie Cronje
Cronje (right) will be among 45 witnesses
South African cricket's inquiry into the Hansie Cronje scandal began on Wednesday with a stern warning from the investigating judge that witnesses face prosecution if they fail to answer satisfactorily "any question lawfully put to them".

The 70-year-old English-born Judge Edwin King, who recently retired as judge president of the Western Cape, said all the hearings would be held in public unless he ruled any particular evidence of portion of evidence should be held in camera.

"I don't see that happening frequently, or at all," he said.

The inquiry's public hearings were prompted by the revelation that the national team captain Hansie Cronje had accepted bribes to supply match information to bookmakers.

The inquiry in Cape Town is seeking to determine how widespread the practice is in South African cricket.

I have no intention whatsoever of engaging in a cover-up

Judge Edwin King

The commission, which began work a month ago, has subpoenaed 45 witnesses - most of them cricketers.

The witnesses will include players Nicky Boje, Herschelle Gibbs and Pieter Strydom, who together with Cronje were implicated in match-fixing by the Indian police during a tour last year.

Cronje himself is also on the witness list, despite earlier reports that he could exploit a legal loophole to avoid having to testify.

The former captain admits accepting money from an Indian bookmaker for information and forecasts on matches, but denies match-fixing.

England captain Nasser Hussain could also be asked to give evidence about discussions with Cronje which led to both teams forfeiting an innings to allow a result to be achieved at January test match.

Some reports have suggested that Cronje was under pressure to avoid the match ending in a draw.

Tapes unavailable

Judge Edwin King, who is heading the inquiry, told journalists on Tuesday he was determined to investigate the matter fully.

"I have no intention whatsoever of engaging in a cover-up," Judge King said.

He rejected suggestions by Cronje's predecessor, Kepler Wessels, that top cricket officials would undermine the inquiry by withholding evidence.

The commission has failed to obtain copies of the tapes which the Indian police said linked the players to match-fixing allegations - but Judge King said he did not believe these tapes included crucial evidence.

The inquiry is expected to last for months, and most of the first's day's proceedings will be taken up with Judge King's opening statement.

Games

Cronje's spiritual adviser, Ray McCAuley, has been quoted in a newspaper as saying that the tapes were genuine, but he was simply playing games with the bookmakers.

McCauley, the head of the Rhema church, said: "There were certain people he did speak to and mention names of players, but it was a joke in a sense. He had no intention of making contact with the other players."

"He has to take responsibility for this, but I hope they look at it in the context of what is happening in other countries.

"I think he will disclose that there is a tremendous amount of this going on."

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See also:

06 Jun 00 | Cricket
Woolmer backs Cronje recall
02 Jun 00 | Cricket
Cronje blames Satan
30 May 00 | Cricket
Cronje could face police
13 Apr 00 | Cricket
Cronje: I always played to win
10 Apr 00 | Cricket
SA demand 'Cronje tapes'
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