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‘Football Leaks’ hacker faces court verdict

Hacker Rui Pinto, the man behind “Football Leaks” and “Luanda Leaks”, faces sentencing in Lisbon on Friday at the end of a trial that started in September 2020.

Pinto is being tried for 89 hacking offences whose victims included top Portuguese football club Sporting, investment fund Doyen Sports, the Portuguese Football Federation, a law firm and even magistrates of the Portuguese Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The 34-year-old is also charged with attempted extortion, a crime punishable by between two and 10 years in prison. 

At the end of his trial, Pinto admitted to having obtained confidential information in an “illegal” way with “a group of friends” who he refused to identify. 

He also said he regretted asking Doyen Sports and its boss Nelio Lucas for money, calling it “a huge mistake that allowed critics to minimise the merits of Football Leaks.” 

He said he never intended to go through with the blackmail.

“I was outraged by what I discovered and I decided to make it public,” said Pinto at the opening of his trial, adding that “Football Leaks” was “a source of pride, not shame”. 

Portuguese law does not allow Pinto whistleblower status, but his lawyers hope the judges will take into account the public interest of his revelations when they reach their verdict.

Pinto’s “Football Leaks” trove contains some 18.6 million documents, which he began posting on the internet in 2015. Germany’s Spiegel and other European outlets then acquired some documents and published details. Pinto continued hacking and leaking documents for several years.

The leaks have sparked criminal investigations in Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Switzerland.

Pinto also says he is behind the “Luanda Leaks”, a release of 715,000 compromising documents that focus on Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

“Football Leaks” shed light on questionable practices involving star players, clubs and agents, which sparked investigations in several countries. 

They led to several clients of Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes being investigated for tax evasion. The revelations led to his star player, Cristiano Ronaldo, paying several million euros to the Spanish tax authorities in 2019. 

Other Mendes clients investigated for tax evasion include coach Jose Mourinho, Colombian striker Radamel Falcao and Argentine winger Angel Di Maria. 

French international Paul Pogba and his late Italian-Dutch agent Mino Raiola have also been investigated. 

“Football Leaks” revealed a complaint of rape filed against Ronaldo. In June 2022, the complaint was dismissed by a Nevada court.

They also showed that Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain might not have complied with financial fair play rules. 

“Football Leaks” also revealed secret meetings between Gianni Infantino, shortly after his election as FIFA president, and former Swiss federal prosecutor Michael Lauber. Lauber lost his job after the discussion became public.

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