London - Pakistan cricketers Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt, together with their agent, have been charged with corruption offences, England's prosecution service said on Friday.
The charges relate to alleged incidents during a Test match against England last year when Britain's News of the World tabloid claimed the players were willing to deliberately bowl no-balls.
The newspaper alleged the players had colluded in a spot-fixing betting scam organised by their agent, Mazhar Majeed.
"We have decided that Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt and their agent, Mazhar Majeed, should be charged with conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments and also conspiracy to cheat," Simon Clements of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said in a statement.
"These charges relate to allegations that Mr Majeed accepted money from a third party to arrange for the players to bowl 'no balls' on 26 and 27 August 2010, during Pakistan's Fourth Test at Lord's Cricket Ground in London."
Clements, head of the CPS Special Crime Division, added: "We are satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute."
The statement said the three Pakistan players had been asked to appear in court in London on March 17. They have been told to return "voluntarily" to Britain for the hearing or prosecutors will seek their extradition.
British-based Majeed must also appear on the same date at the same court, City of Westminster Magistrates.
Britain's Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement it had "been informed of the CPS' decision".
The Pakistan trio are currently provisionally suspended from international cricket but a separate International Cricket Council (ICC) tribunal, chaired by English lawyer Michael Beloff, is due to announce its conclusions in Doha on Saturday following its own probe.
The world governing body's code of conduct carries a maximum lifetime ban if corruption charges are proved.
A News of the World spokesperson welcomed the move by English prosecutors, saying: "Every true cricket fan will want to see justice served.
"We will continue to assist the police with their inquiries and look forward to presenting our extensive dossier of evidence in open court."
At the time of the alleged offfences, Butt, 26, was captain of Pakistan's Test side with Asif, 28, the team's senior pace bowler while teenage left-arm swing bowler Aamer, 18, was regarded as one of the hottest properties in world cricket.
The announcement the trio will face criminal charges comes at a sensitive time for the sport with the World Cup due to start in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in a fortnight.