The man who exposed many dubious deals involving top football clubs, agents and players in the “Football Leaks” case has gone on trial in Portugal.
Rui Pinto, 31, describes himself as a “whistleblower” rather than a “hacker”, saying he acted to expose corruption in football. Millions of documents were leaked, triggering legal inquiries.
Some of the data contributed to Uefa’s case against Manchester City, whose Champions League ban was later lifted.
The leaks to the media began in 2016.
There will be at least three court sessions per week until December at Lisbon’s central criminal court, Reuters news agency reports.
Rui 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.
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.
Hundreds of articles were written based on the leaked confidential data, which alleged cases of tax evasion and dubious deals involving some top football clubs and star players. Judicial investigations were launched in France, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland.
The revelations raised questions about the degree of control exercised by football’s governing bodies, with allegations that huge transfer deals and club investments were poorly policed.
The 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.
The powerful Portuguese agent Jorge Mendes was among those investigated.
Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, formerly of Real Madrid, is one of Mr Mendes’ top clients. Cristiano Ronaldo was investigated for tax evasion and in January 2019 he agreed to pay a fine of €18.8m (£16.7m) in Spain.
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Who is Rui Pinto?
He created Football Leaks under the pseudonym “John”, based in Budapest, Hungary, where he was a history student. He is Portuguese and a fan of FC Porto.
He was arrested in January 2019 and two months later Hungary extradited him to Portugal, where he was first kept in solitary detention and later moved to house arrest. That house arrest was lifted last month.
In January this year he declared himself the whistleblower in the “Luanda Leaks” case: leaked documents revealed how billionaire Isabel dos Santos, daughter of a former president of Angola, amassed her fortune. She has denied any wrongdoing.
What are the charges and his defence?
Rui Pinto faces 90 criminal charges: he is accused of computer fraud, attempted extortion and violating privacy of correspondence.
He justifies his actions by saying the leaks were necessary to shine a light on the dark side of many football transactions.
Reports say he plans to call 45 witnesses in his defence, including the exiled US whistleblower Edward Snowden, wanted in the US over his 2013 revelations about the scale of National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance.
William Bourdon, a French lawyer who has represented Mr Snowden in the past, is on Mr Pinto’s defence team.