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Rui Pinto of Football Leaks gives hard disks to European investigators

Rui Pinto, the Portuguese whistleblower behind the “Football Leaks” revelations, has turned his hard disks over to French and European investigators. Photo: AFP

Rui Pinto, the Portuguese whistleblower behind the “Football Leaks” revelations, has turned his hard disks over to French and European investigators even as he fears his life is “totally stuck”.

The information could open up a whole new raft of potentially damaging revelations for football in Europe.

“I am sure that there are still many things that have not been investigated,” Pinto said in an interview with AFP and other French media.

Since the leaks were first published online in 2015, the salaries of superstars Lionel Messi and Neymar have been revealed and the world learned of a rape allegation lawsuit against Cristiano Ronaldo that was dismissed by a US judge.

Accusations also emerged that European champions Manchester City used a complex strategy to get around Financial Fairplay rules. The club deny any wrongdoing.

The revelations he has overseen have come at a high personal cost to Pinto, 35, who was arrested in Hungary in January 2019 and given a four-year suspended prison sentence in a Portuguese court last year for attempted extortion and unauthorised entry into computer systems.

Last week, Pinto was questioned by French anti-corruption investigators near Paris, with magistrates specialising in financial crimes also in attendance.

That interview was in relation to a French investigation into the original Football Leaks revelations that was opened in late 2016.

Also around the table were investigators from Germany, Belgium and other countries.

In an interview with AFP and other French media at the offices of his French lawyer William Bourdon, Pinto set out the reason for his presence in France — he wanted “for the first time to give French and foreign authorities full and unrestricted access to the data” he had collected until his arrest five years ago.

Far greater

The information that investigators can now access is far greater than that made available to European Investigative Collaborations, the media consortium which has published the Football Leaks revelations so far.

The office of France’s financial crimes investigators confirmed that “work on exploiting (the data) can now start”.

It hailed Pinto’s “essential cooperation” and said his assistance would help “relaunch procedures that are already under way or lead to new procedures being opened”.

The Portuguese said the hard disks contain information about some of Europe’s leading football clubs, sports federations and companies.

Pinto said: “I am sure that there are still many things that have not been investigated.”

He cited “an interesting example” concerning the French interior ministry, referring to documents that bolstered suspicions of fiscal irregularities in the world record 222-million-euro ($239 million) transfer of Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017.

The list of revelations also includes the “Luanda Leaks”, an investigation published in 2020 about Isabel dos Santos, the once fabulously rich daughter of former Angola president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled Angola for 38 years.

“What I’ve just handed over is far greater than the first data that was shared. It doesn’t just concern Football Leaks and Luanda Leaks,” Pinto claimed.

In the interview, Pinto returned again and again to the “harassment” he had been subjected to by the Portuguese justice system.

He said his home country had done nothing to exploit the data from his leaks, contrasting it with the “respectful” welcome he had received in France.

More charges in Portugal

In France, where in November he was given a six-month suspended prison sentence for hacking the emails of Paris Saint-Germain executives, Pinto will no longer be prosecuted, his lawyer said.

In Portugal, however, Pinto still faces a number of criminal investigations.

Rui Pinto has appealed against his four-year conviction from last year, but prosecutors have already prepared new charges against him.

The only bright spot is that he was able to meet the investigators in Paris because other elements of the Portuguese investigations were dropped in November, allowing him to cooperate with other countries.

While he waits to see what investigators in France and other European partners produce from the data, his lawyer said he fears he risks “judicial persecution in perpetuity”.

Pinto himself said: “My life is totally stuck. I am not even allowed to apply for a job.”

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