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"Rui Pinto: the Whistle-blower Conviction Shaking International Football"

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

In a landmark verdict on Monday, a Portuguese court convicted Rui Pinto, the notorious hacker renowned for the infamous "Football Leaks," sentencing him to a suspended four-year prison term. This episode marked the most gargantuan information leak in sports history and activated a series of criminal investigations in Belgium, Britain, France, Spain, and Switzerland.

34-year-old Pinto argued his position as a whistleblower, shining a spotlight on corruption for the public good. However, prosecutors saw it differently, charging him with 89 counts of hacking offenses and attempted extortion - a grave crime in Portugal punishable by up to a decade in prison.

The Lisbon court declared him guilty on five counts of "illegitimate access" to sensitive information technology systems and three counts of "correspondence violations." Additionally, he was charged for attempted extortion against Doyen Sports, a major investment fund. Pinto was alleged to have sought between €500,000 to €1 million from the fund's head, Nelio Lucas, to cease publishing compromising documents.

From 2015 to 2018, Pinto disclosed approximately 18.6 million searing documents online and to various European newspapers, shedding light on the intricate deceits permeating global football. This data dump unearthed information on prominent figures in football – shedding light on the exorbitant salaries of Lionel Messi and Neymar, the rape allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo, and unsavory practices by teams like Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain.

In 2019, he was arrested and later extradited from Hungary to Portugal where, after being released from a year in prison, cooperated with Portuguese authorities on other cases, thus standing as both a defendant and protected witness.

As the dust settles on this case, questions still bristle around the balance between freedom of information, privacy, and the fair game of football.

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