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New Zealand to slap jail term for fixing

Wellington: New Zealand is to slap a seven-year jail term on anyone caught match-fixing under a new law due to take effect before it hosts the 2015 ODI World Cup and Under-20 Fifa World Cup next year.

The Match-Fixing Bill, introduced to parliament on Thursday with unanimous political support, would apply the lengthy sentences to anyone caught trying to influence or benefit from the outcome of a match or race.

“Match-fixing is a growing problem internationally and has been described as the number one threat to the integrity, value and growth of sport,” sports minister Murray McCully said.

“As we have seen from recent events, New Zealand is not immune to this threat.”

Former New Zealand cricketer Lou Vincent was recently banned for life from the sport after admitting to fixing, while Chris Cairns, who has denied match-fixing, remains under investigation.

Opposition sports spokesman Trevor Mallard said the bill made an important change to existing laws to make it “very clear that match-fixing is a crime. This puts it beyond any doubt whatsoever”.

An International Centre for Sport Security report released earlier this year estimated that more than US$140 billion is laundered annually through sport betting “and 80 percent of global sport betting is illegal.”

Fixing legislation in some form is also present in a few other cricket countries. In 2011, all states and territories in Australia agreed to bring in criminal legislation against fixing. While a few states have already done so, others are in the process of bringing in such laws, but there is no federal law in place. In England, the law is aimed at punters and cheating but not specifically fixing. Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, has stated that the board is working with the government on laws that make fixing a criminal offence.

The match-fixing bill will now be taken up by a law and order select committee. The bill could be passed into law before the World Cup and the Fifa Under-20 World Cup, which New Zealand will host later next year.