Hong Kong cricket chief Dinesh Tandon insisted the Hong Kong Sixes are corruption free, despite New Zealand players being approached last year by a 'Middle Eastern diamond dealer' who offered them gifts.
The players told the International Cricket Council (ICC) of the suspicious approach, raising fears of possible match- or spot-fixing. And Heath Mills, the New Zealand players' association CEO, called for cricket's governing body to deploy its anti-corruption officials at the Sixes and similar unofficial tournaments, which are held with the ICC's approval.
Hong Kong Cricket Association chairman Tandon insisted the integrity of the Sixes was beyond reproach and all steps had been taken to ensure the annual tournament was corruption free.
'We have been made aware by the ICC that an incident happened and we are investigating it further. But I can assure you that there has been no instance of match-fixing or spot-fixing. We have strictly adhered to ICC guidelines on corruption and I'm confident nothing happened.'
Popular website Cricinfo reported that members of the New Zealand side dined with a man in Hong Kong who introduced himself as a Middle Eastern diamond dealer, but grew uncomfortable when he began offering them products.
They reported the interaction to team manager Steve Wilkins, who informed New Zealand Cricket, and the players were interviewed by the ICC's anti-corruption unit.
ICC media officer Lucy Benjamin said the ICC would not comment on individual cases.
'Haroon Lorgat [ICC chief executive] informed us in January that its anti-corruption unit was looking into some incident,' Tandon said.
'We have now asked New Zealand Cricket for more information as to who this person was and how the contact was made. What we know right now is the New Zealand cricketers went for a private dinner and not something organised by us. On the days of the tournament we have a control of everything and there is no easy access to players. But outside the tournament itself, we can't keep the players under lock and key in their hotel rooms.'
The Sixes are sponsored by Karp Group, a jewellery company. Tandon said the sponsors had not been involved with the New Zealand team.
'I know they did not entertain the Kiwis. And they are not Middle Eastern anyway,' Tandon said.
Mills said the process had shown that players were now well educated about potential dangers. 'We were comfortable with the process New Zealand Cricket followed and the players had done nothing untoward, they were quite open about it,' Mills told ESPN Cricinfo.
'The players informed NZC that they were not comfortable with this man's behaviour, having got quite close to the team in Hong Kong and starting to offer them various products. That's a red flag.'
However, Mills argued the episode should provide the catalyst for a greater ICC presence at the event and other such 'festivals', which are not official events but take place with the governing body's approval. Without the supervision of the anti-corruption unit, Mills agreed the Sixes constituted a blind spot in the ICC's efforts to rid the game of corruption.
'The Hong Kong Sixes aren't the usual bilateral series or an ICC event. These sorts of events are festivals if you like, and if there isn't an ICC anti-corruption official there to police them, a lot of the protocols aren't going to be followed,' he said.
Tandon said the ICC's anti-corruption unit was always welcome.
'The anti-corruption special unit attended the Sixes one year, in 2004 or 2005. We will encourage their presence in the future, too. But even without them, we stick strictly to the ICC guidelines and ensure nothing untoward happens,' Tandon said.
The Sixes tournament, which began in 1992 and has featured some of the world's best players, was won last year by Australia after David Warner and Ryan Carters belted an astonishing 48 runs off the last over of the final against Pakistan.