Football corruption whistleblower faces 90 criminal charges

Football Leaks whistleblower Rui Pinto is facing 90 criminal charges, including computer fraud, attempted extortion and violating privacy of correspondence after he accessed and shared millions of documents exposing alleged corruption within football, Reuters news agency reports.

On September 3, his trial began in Lisbon, at which he is facing 90 criminal charges including computer fraud, attempted extortion and violating privacy of correspondence.

The plaintiffs are football club Sporting, the Portuguese Football Federation, investment fund Doyen Sports and law firm PLMJ.

Doyen lawyer Sofia Branco Ribeiro accused Pinto of illegally accessing its data and attempting to extort €1 million from the company.

Pinto claims his work was justified as it helped to expose illegalities within the sport and his lawyers intend to call 45 witnesses to rebut the allegations, including Edward Snowden, a former CIA officer.

– I don’t consider myself a hacker. I am a whistle-blower, – Pinto said.

He admitted that he had published 70 million documents about football clubs and added that his disclosures were not shameful or made for money.

Moreover, Pinto claimed responsibility for disclosing hundreds of thousands of documents on the Luanda Leaks about the alleged financial schemes by Isabel dos Santos, the richest woman in Africa and the daughter of the former president of Angola.

Who is Rui Pinto?

In 2015 Pinto created the website Football Leaks but opted not to reveal his true identity, instead using the pseudonym John.

A year later, Pinto handed terabytes of data to German newspaper Der Spiegel.

After leaking the hacked documents, Rui Pinto fled Portugal and took refuge in Hungary, where he had spent a year as an Erasmus scholar.

He spent four years there before being tracked down and extradited by Portugal in March 2019.

He was released to house arrest after cooperating with Portuguese prosecutors by giving them access to a mass of encrypted unpublished documents.

Pinto’s house arrest was lifted last month and he is under a witness protection scheme, meaning he has heavy police protection for his own safety.

There will be at least three court sessions per week until December at Lisbon’s central criminal court.

What was Football Leaks?

The website – like a football version of Wikileaks – provided millions of documents and more than 3.4 terabytes of information to media outlets in the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) consortium, a network of journalists.

Football Leaks from 2015 to 2018 exposed possible tax evasion, fraud, corruption and other misdeeds involving star players and club managers. The information has led to the opening of legal proceedings in France, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland.

The disclosed data showed how wealthy Gulf Arab individuals and organisations now exercise strong influence over some top European clubs, as well as the role of offshore tax havens in football transactions.

In March, the Portuguese judiciary also launched an investigation targeting the country’s main clubs and the powerful Portuguese agent Jorge Mendes, due to suspicions of tax evasion in player transfers.

The revelations caused tax problems for Cristiano Ronaldo linked to his move to Real Madrid and exposed Paris Saint-Germain’s youth team racial quotas and deals between UEFA and PSG and Manchester City.