Calcutta: Henry Williams, one of the cricketers who testified against the disgraced former South African captain Hansie Cronje, says that he had lied to the King Commission of Inquiry into the match-fixing saga back in 2000, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
At the inquiry, Williams testified that he had been offered $15,000 from his captain Cronje to concede more than 50 runs in his 10 overs in the fifth and final ODI against India in Nagpur. The same amount of money had been offered to Herschelle Gibbs, too, to score less than 20 runs.
However, while speaking to a website, Williams claimed that no such details were discussed. Instead, Cronje had joked with Gibbs and him. According to Williams, they were later convinced to pad up their stories for the King Commission.
According to the South African paper, Williams now claims that his testimony, and that of Gibbs, was part of a conspiracy that involved their lawyers to make a stronger case against Cronje.
The ICC had banned Cronje for life from any form of the sport after he admitted his involvement in match-fixing. Cronje later died in a plane crash in 2002.
Williams and Gibbs were both banned for six months.
Williams told the newspaper that Cronje had never mentioned the amount involved. He claimed to have been pressurised to ‘nail’ Cronje.
In the match that went under the scanner, Williams injured his shoulder and bowled only 11 deliveries, while Gibbs scored 74, as a result of which, neither of them received any money.
Williams admitted to being afraid of the consequences he might have had to face and thought there was a lot of pressure to produce a more detailed story to prove Cronje’s guilt.
“It was serious then, and after that I thought, alright, life must go on: it can’t stop,” he said. “But at that particular moment, there was fear.
“When we testified to our lawyers what the story really was, they came up with a threat that we could be prosecuted for doing something like this. So it means we actually lied to our lawyers, who had to tell another story to get to somebody. I believe that was to get to Cronje and whoever involved in this.
“I had never been in a court before. We gave our Senior Counsel the story. We had to come back and testify to the King commission with a different story. I don’t know if we were forced to lie to get to somebody else. I’m still confused.
“When people ask me, I will tell them the truth. I’ll say, ‘That’s what I said to my lawyers, what really happened’. Then, to the King commission, a different story.
“I don’t know why, because we were forced by the prosecution. I didn’t know what the hell was happening, what can happen to me. So I came up with a different story.”
Meanwhile, Gibbs, who is playing in Australia’s Big Bash League, distanced himself from Williams’ comments.
The lawyers who represented Williams and Gibbs at the King Commission, senior counsel Mike Fitzgerald and attorney Peter Whelan, deny that they had convinced Williams to lie on the stand.
“That's outrageous,” Fitzgerald said. “Why would I give my own client a version that implicates him? If I somehow persuaded him to lie, to whose benefit would that be?” Whelan called the allegations, “fundamental rubbish”.
The King Commission secretary John Bacon said it was unlikely that the investigations will be reopened.