Rui Pedro Gonçalves Pinto (born 20 October 1988) is a Portuguese activist, whistleblower, creator of the Football Leaks website, and responsible for Malta Files and Luanda Leaks revelations.[1][2]

Rui Pinto
Rui Pedro Gonçalves Pinto

(1988-10-20) 20 October 1988 (age 35)
EducationUniversity of Porto
Years active2015–2019
OrganizationFootball Leaks
Known forIllegal computer access
Criminal charges
  • Violation of secrecy
  • illegally accessing information
  • attempted qualified extortion
Criminal statusOn trial

Pinto created the Football Leaks website in September 2015, with the intention of revealing the financial picture of association football, including the tax avoidance schemes used by top players and the controversial third-party ownership models used by clubs.[3] He is being accused of having used illegal methods to gather the data he leaked, by accessing private servers and downloading hundreds of internal documents and communications.[4]

Pinto was arrested in Budapest, Hungary, in January 2019 at the request of the Portuguese authorities on suspicion of attempted qualified extortion, violation of secrecy and illegally accessing information. He was released in August 2020.

In July 2023, Pinto was charged for 377 crimes in a new process related to, but not limited to, illegally accessing S.L. Benfica emails and then sharing them with FC Porto's director of communication, Francisco J. Marques,[5] who has been found guilty of publishing and manipulating the emails on Porto Canal.[6]

Early life edit

Pinto was born on 20 October 1988 in Vila Nova de Gaia.[7][8] A keen football fan, he grew up supporting FC Porto.[7] He frequently skipped school to spend time at home on his computer; his high school geography teacher said that "It's very, very difficult to characterize Rui: if he wanted it, he would probably be the best pupil from the class, but he was not".[9] Most of his computer skills are self-taught and he never received any advanced formal education in the field.[7] He began studying history at the University of Porto in the fall of 2008[10] and enrolled in a study-abroad program in Budapest in 2013.[9] He was alleged to have stolen €300,000 from Cayman Islands-based Caledonian Bank, though he denied any wrongdoing and stated that he challenged the bank in order to show "how the Cayman Islands are largely used for tax evasion and to launder money".[7] He reached an out-of-court settlement with the Caledonian Bank in 2014 and has since refused to comment further on the incident, citing a non-disclosure agreement.[11]

Football Leaks edit

Pinto returned to Hungary permanently in February 2015 and made money by helping his father's antique business.[7][9] He maintained an interest in football, computer science and offshore financial flows resulting in tax evasion in the global economy. Later that summer Pinto acquired thousands of internal emails from Doyen Sports Investments, a football agency company backed by Kazakh money.[9] Pinto created the identity of Artem Lobuzov and offered to meet with Nélio Lucas, a players' agent employee of Doyen Sports, to discuss keeping the information secret in exchange for a "good donation".[9] No money changed hands as Pinto broke off contact with Lucas.[9] Pinto later stated that he had tried to meet Lucas in order to verify that the documents he found were real, and confront him with evidence that Lucas may have cooperated in the perpetration of various financial crimes in collusion with other individuals.[9] Some of Pinto's suspicions appears to have been confirmed in the Portuguese criminal case, Operation Prolongamento, in action from 2021.[12] While Nélio Lucas claimed that Pinto had actually been scared off after reading correspondence exchanged with the Portuguese police.[9]

Pinto created the Football Leaks website in September 2015 with the stated aim to reveal "the principal protagonists in the dishonest football industry".[7] Countries including the United Kingdom, Belgium, France and Switzerland have opened criminal investigations based on documents released on the Football Leaks website.[7] Rafael Buschmann, a journalist for German newspaper Der Spiegel, successfully made contact with Pinto in 2016 with the intention of examining the documents he had uncovered and reporting exclusively on the stories in depth.[13] Pinto provided Der Spiegel with four terabytes of confidential information over the next three years.[9] In December 2016, Der Spiegel and other partners at the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) network (including L'Espresso, Le Soir, NRC Handelsblad, The Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism / The Black Sea, Mediapart, Politiken, Falter, NewsWeek, El Mundo, The Sunday Times, and Expresso) began working together to investigate documents provided by Pinto in order to publish information about tax avoidance by several football stars.[14][15] The leaks resulted in multiple footballers being convicted of tax evasion, the Las Vegas police department to investigate an allegation of rape by Cristiano Ronaldo, for Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain to be investigated for breaking UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFP) regulations, and also revealed plans from big clubs for the formation of a 'European Super League'.[16][9][17] In 2018, Rafael Buschmann released a book, entitled Football Leaks, detailing his role in establishing a working relationship with Pinto.[18]

"The information Football Leaks made public — including player contracts, internal team financial documents and confidential emails — pulled back the curtain on the murky world of soccer finance, led to criminal tax prosecutions of several top players and even helped prompt officials in the United States to reopen a sexual assault investigation involving the Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo.

— The New York Times reporter Tariq Panja.[11]

Luanda Leaks edit

On 19 January 2020, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published a detailed report on how Isabel dos Santos amassed her wealth to become Africa's richest woman. The report – which it called Luanda Leaks – provides evidence of how she "made a fortune at the expense of the Angolan people".[19] Pinto's lawyers claim that he provided the source material for this report.[7] Three days later, dos Santos's personal wealth manager and private banking director Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha was found dead in the garage of his house.[20][21]

Arrest edit

Pinto was identified as the source of Football Leaks by Portuguese magazine Sábado in September 2018.[9][22] He was arrested in Budapest on 16 January 2019 at the request of the Portuguese authorities for suspicion of attempted qualified extortion, violation of secrecy and illegally accessing information.[23][24] His lawyers argued that as a whistleblower he was entitled to protection under European law.[25] However he was extradited to Portugal two months later and was charged with 147 crimes by the Public Ministry.[26][27] Portuguese prosecutors claim that Pinto attempted to extort Doyen Sports for one million euros using the identity of Artem Lobuzov, while Pinto's legal team stated that "the team set up by the Public Prosecution to investigate criminality in the football world seems to be more dedicated to pursuing those who denounce it than investigating those who practice the crimes".[11] His case was taken up by French lawyer William Bourdon, who had previously defended Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.[22][28]

On 16 April 2019, Pinto was one of the winners of the European whistleblower award promoted by the European United Left (GUE / NGL), along with Julian Assange and Yasmine Motarjemi.[29][30]

Pinto was released from house arrest on 7 August 2020.[31][32]

Trial edit

The trial started on 4 September 2020, surrounded by strong security measures, never seen before in Portugal. In a short statement before the panel of judges, he said he was a whistleblower who made public a lot of important information which would otherwise never be known, and that he never received money.[33][34]

In several trial sessions, dubious and allegedly criminal acts perpetrated by those in charge of the investigation were identified, having led the panel of judges to make two reports aimed at investigating the conduct of inspectors of the Portuguese Judicial Police.[35][36][37][38]

In September 2023, the Portuguese court gave Pinto a four-year suspended sentence after finding him guilty on counts of attempted extortion, illegal access to data, and breach of correspondence.[39][40]

References edit

  1. ^ Panja, Tariq (10 April 2020). "Soccer Secrets Hacker Leaves Prison, Enters Lockdown". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  2. ^ Auto, Hermes (3 September 2020). "Football Leaks hacker Rui Pinto faces 90 charges as trial opens in Portugal | The Straits Times". Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  3. ^ "'Football Leaks' Hacker Goes on Trial in Portugal". Sports Illustrated. Associated Press. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  4. ^ Panja, Tariq (20 September 2019). "Hacker Who Revealed Soccer Secrets Is Charged With 147 Crimes". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  5. ^ "Rui Pinto acusado de 377 crimes em novo processo por acesso a emails do Benfica". ECO (in Portuguese). 7 July 2023. Retrieved 10 July 2023.
  6. ^ "Rui Pinto acusado de 377 crimes pelo Ministério Público". Diário de Notícias (in Portuguese). 7 July 2023. Retrieved 10 July 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rui Pinto: hacker who targetted football and Angola's 'princess'". France 24. 27 January 2020. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Rui Pinto em tribunal: "31 anos, desempregado". Conheça o perfil completo do hacker". (in European Portuguese). Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Knight, Sam (27 May 2019). "How Football Leaks Is Exposing Corruption in European Soccer". The New Yorker. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  10. ^ "How Football Leaks Is Exposing Corruption in European Soccer". The New Yorker. 24 May 2019. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  11. ^ a b c Panja, Tariq (20 September 2019). "Hacker Who Revealed Soccer Secrets Is Charged With 147 Crimes (Published 2019)". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  12. ^ "Pinto da Costa assina contrato para pagar luvas. CM revela os documentos". (in European Portuguese). Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  13. ^ Aarons, Ed (28 February 2020). "Football Leaks' Rui Pinto in prison with hard-drive passwords in his head". the Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  14. ^ "Football Leaks: Ronaldo and Mourinho accused of tax avoidance". BBC News. 3 December 2016. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  15. ^ "Football Leaks, the soccer's business secrets: Cristiano Ronaldo and Mourinho go offshore". 2 December 2016. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  16. ^ "Football Leaks claims Euro Super League talks held by clubs". BBC Sport. 2 November 2018. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  17. ^ Sanghera, Mandeep; Alistair, Magowan (6 November 2018). "Man City and Paris St-Germain 'are cheating and should be punished'". BBC Sport. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  18. ^ Buschmann, Rafael; Wulzinger, Michael (2018). Football leaks : the dirty deals behind the beautiful game. London: Faber & Faber. ISBN 9781783351428.
  19. ^ Isabel dos Santos made a fortune at the expense of the Angolan people, Luanda Leaks reveals., published 19 January 2020
  20. ^ "Luanda Leaks | Aparece muerto en Portugal el gestor financiero de Isabel dos Santos". El Confidencial (in Spanish). 23 January 2020. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  21. ^ "Soccer Leaker Rui Pinto Named as Luanda Leaks Whistleblower". FRONTLINE. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  22. ^ a b Allsop, Jon (2 August 2019). "The complex case of Rui Pinto". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  23. ^ Hacker behind 'Football Leaks' arrested in Hungary ZDNet
  24. ^ Demony, Catarina; Almeida, Gonçalo (23 January 2019). "Arrested Portuguese hacker is Football Leaks 'whistleblower': lawyers". Reuters. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  25. ^ Panja, Tariq (23 January 2019). "When Is a Hacker a Whistle-Blower? In Football Leaks Case, a Hungarian Judge Will Decide (Published 2019)". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  26. ^ "'Hacker' Rui Pinto já está em Portugal" [Hacker Rui Pinto is already in Portugal]. SAPO Desporto (in Portuguese). 21 March 2019. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  27. ^ Oliveira, Mariana; Dantas, Miguel (19 September 2019). "Ministério Público acusa Rui Pinto de 147 crimes" [Public Ministry charge Rui Pinto with 147 crimes]. Público (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 September 2019.
  28. ^ "Rui Pinto lawyer hopes Football Leaks founder will soon be free". the Guardian. 22 April 2020. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  29. ^ "Assange, Motarjemi & Rui Pinto win GUE/NGL whistleblower prize". GUE/NGL.
  30. ^ "Rui Pinto vence prémio europeu para denunciantes".
  31. ^ Rosa, Sónia Simões, Luís. "Rui Pinto deixa prisão domiciliária. Juíza considera que o seu comportamento mudou completamente". Observador.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  32. ^ Welle (, Deutsche. "Fresh email leak shines new light on Manchester City's financial conduct | DW | 25.07.2021". DW.COM. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  33. ^ "Rui Pinto: Como o início do julgamento pareceu, ao nível da operação policial, um filme de ação". SAPO 24.
  34. ^ ""Nunca recebi dinheiro", diz Rui Pinto. Julgamento recomeça dia 15".
  35. ^ Branco, Carolina. "Football Leaks. Inspetora da PJ confessa que assinou relatório sem ler. "Se está na Unidade de Combate à Corrupção, melhor devia ler"". Observador.
  36. ^ Branco, Carolina. "Tribunal extrai certidão para investigar inspetor da PJ por corrupção no processo Football Leaks. Caso tinha sido arquivado". Observador.
  37. ^ Branco, Carolina. "O ofício para a Rússia, o requerimento à PGR e um jornalista. As 3 suspeitas sobre a relação da PJ com a Doyen". Observador.
  38. ^ Branco, Carolina. ""Isto não é normal". Inspetor da PJ instruiu advogado a enviar requerimento sobre Rui Pinto à PGR". Observador.
  39. ^ "Rui Pinto: Football Leaks founder handed four-year suspended sentence by Portugal court". 12 September 2023. Retrieved 10 October 2023.
  40. ^ Nuno Tiago Pinto,"Saved by the Pope". 25 September 2023. Retrieved 10 October 2023.