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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 17:52 GMT
Cricket's special branch
Sport Online's Thrasy Petropoulos assesses the working practices and powers of the ICC's new anti-corruption unit.
No sooner had Sir Paul Condon, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, begun his speech to introduce himself as head of the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit, than he was thrown into the spotlight by events halfway across the world.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) were standing by Alec Stewart, who is alleged to have accepted money for information seven years ago, but had asked the ACU to investigate the matter further.
Here, at least, was a chance for Sir Paul to explain the workings of the ACU - set up as the investigative arm of the ICC - in the most topical of environments.
The news was both good and bad.
On the positive side, Sir Paul, who "reluctantly" took up the role after being headhunted out of retirement just six weeks after leaving the force, spoke of having insisted on "specific terms of reference" when he took the job.
Were he not convinced, he said, that "all avenues if investigation" would be open to him and that the ACU would have a genuine role to fulfil, he would not have accepted the three-year post.
But the ACU hold no powers beyond those of independent investigators. Not only can no criminal proceedings follow as a direct consequence of their findings, but the unit cannot not even recommend punishment.
On the one hand, the ACU defines itself as being independent of the ICC; but on the other, it is funded by the sport's ruling body and has to report back to Lord Griffith, chairman of the ICC's Code of Conduct Commission.
The Commission has the right to ban a player from the game for five years to life. In reality, however, it is up to the home boards to decide on punishment.
But at least something is being done by the ICC, whose name has become synonymous with toothlessness on matters of corruption within the game - and it is not merely window dressing.
It was partly for his experience of the criticism he and his force received in the McPherson inquiry on the handling of the Stephen Lawrence case that Sir Paul was singled out from a shortlist of 20.
He was used to dealing cases of corruption and sleaze, accusations levelled against parts of the force when he was in charge.
Unashamedly, but potentially with damaging consequences, Sir Paul used his contacts within the police force to staff his six-man office in St Anne's Gate, a prime location in Central London.
To add to the British flavour, the powerful database which is intended to revolutionise the crackdown on match-fixers, was developed by a Cambridge-based company.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) were quick to offer a written objection to Sir Paul's appointment, referring back to the accusations of "institutional racism" within the force mentioned in the McPherson inquiry.
The PCB, whose stance appears to have been a reaction to what they saw as British meddling in their match-fixing investigations, have, according to Sir Paul, now relented and offered their full support.
Even then, the sight of five former English bobbies - the sixth member of staff is an IT consultant - heading an international task force risks future confrontation.
It is, therefore, up to the ACU to gain the trust of the boards of the 10 Test-playing nations and the first two months of Sir Paul's tenure was taken up primarily with getting to grips with the various inquiries - judicial or otherwise - into match-fixing and corruption up and running around the world.
But what can the ACU bring to these enquiries? After all, it is not its job to police them, but to assist them.
This is where the British software comes in to play.
A powerful database, developed by i2, and used by police forces across England and around the world, will, it is intended, revolutionise the way match-fixers and crooked bookies are tracked down.
The programme works by creating associations and "link-analysis charts" from the supplied information.
As the information becomes ever more dense, so the associations - which include, say, people, addresses, bank accounts, mobile phone records, organisations, the findings of reports and witness accounts - will start to become more dense.
The permutations appear endless. A network of information on one individuals can be linked across to the network of information on another - and so the puzzle grows.
With sufficient information, the programme will itself suggest links and areas which require future investigation.
Five of the staff, including Sir Paul (accompanied by a bodyguard), will travel the world gathering information.
Everything and anything of relevance to corruption within cricket will then be fed into the database, including the results of the declaration by all international cricketers and relevant personnel, and the findings will be presented to the ICC.
It is then for others to decide on punishment.
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