Faced with suspension over allegation of match-fixing, three former Sri Lanka cricketers have appealed to the Geneva-based Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) against the International Cricket Council (ICC) Anti-Corruption Unit’s (ACU) decision to proceed with the arbitration without giving a fair hearing.
Michael Beloff QC, Chair of the ICC Code of Conduct Commission dismissed trio’s challenge to jurisdiction and declined to lift the provisional suspensions issued on them, forcing them to seek redress in higher forums.
Avishka Gunawardena and Nuwan Zoysa who are attached to Sri Lanka Cricket’s (SLC) coaching department, and Dilhara Lokuhettige, a former cricketer now resident in Australia, face charges of corruption under the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Code (ACC). They remain suspended for several months.
All three are charged with directly or indirectly soliciting, inducing, enticing, instructing, persuading, encouraging or intentionally facilitating any participant to breach the Code. They are also accused of not reporting corrupt practices to the ACU were deployed by the ICC on the request of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) which hosted the 2017 edition of the T10 League in UAE.
The ECB organised the T10 League 2017 with approval of the ICC. The world governing body granted ECB sanctioning rights to organize the exclusive event in accordance with the ICC’s event sanctioning regulations in force at that time. The ICC, however, had no role in assigning and contracting the umpires and match referees. It provided anti-corruption services to the event on ECB’s request.
The Sri Lankan trio has maintained their innocence ever since the ICC framed the charges and has now decided to take the bull by the horns in a move to prove their innocence. The suspensions particularly left Gunawardena and Zoysa in limbo as their employer let them both go pending the investigations by the parent body.
Gunawardena was gaining grounds as a top notch Sri Lankan coach, having overseen the development of several star international cricketers. Zoysa, too, contributed immensely towards shaping up youth cricketers. The arbitration at CAS will cost them handsomely but they want to restore their reputation and are represented by Chrishmal Warnasuriya, a senior lawyer.
Their Counsel has maintained that ICC doesn’t have jurisdiction to hear and determine these cases as the tournament in question–the T10 League of 2017–does not conform to the ICC definition of either “international” or “domestic” matches; it did not have ICC sanction; and ICC had not followed proper procedure in determining provisional suspension.
The cricketers maintain that the Chairman of the ICC Code of Conduct Commission did not give them a fair and reasonable opportunity to present evidence before handing out the provisional suspension. This caused them public ridicule and severer financial strain as they were suspended from their workplaces.
They request the CAS to vacate the case and lift the provisional suspensions; to determine that the ICC ACU has no jurisdiction to proceed with the case; to make an order staying the operation of ICC decision to proceed with arbitration; and to direct ICC to disclose all documents and materials in respect of the said T10 League of 2017.
They want all agreements between ECB and ICC ACU to act as “agent” for the tournament; all agreements entered between the players and participants of team Sri Lanka that participated; and all records of payments with amounts to the Team Sri Lanka and/or players and participants.
The accused also seek an order declaring that the said T10 League of 2017 was neither an international nor a domestic match within the definition of ECB ACC and/or ICC regulation on sanctioning. They want appeal costs and compensation of US$ 1 million to each for the damage to reputation and loss of livelihood. The respondents are the ICC, the ECB and SLC.
The ICC in 2018 launched a corruption investigation in Sri Lanka and granted a 15-day amnesty for Sri Lankan cricketers and others involved in the game to come clean with what they know about corruption.
Warnasuriya said that they are appealing to high forums, including Sri Lankan courts, challenging the entire process. The ICC cannot maintain these charges on “such frivolous evidence”, he insisted.