Whistleblower Rui Pinto says he acted in ‘public interest’ and fears a Portuguese trial

February 4 – The man behind a string of incriminating leaks that shook the footballing world over the past few weeks claims he would not get a fair trial if he is returned to his native Portugal because “the mafia is everywhere”.

As Hungarian authorities decide whether Portuguese national Rui Pinto should be extradited as a hacker or protected as a whistleblower, he has defended his actions in relation to providing millions of confidential documents to the Football Leaks website, many of whose claims have been published by Germany’s Der Spiegel and other media organisations.

The revelations contained in the data provided by Pinto, who has been under house arrest since last week, has resulted in numerous investigations.

In an interview from Budapest with Der Spiegel, which broke a series of stories about alleged financial mismanagement at the highest level, Pinto, who faces charges of extortion in Portugal, insisted he should not be described as a hacker.

“I don’t consider myself as a hacker, but as a citizen who acted in the public interest. My sole intention was to reveal illicit practices that affect the world of football,” he said.

Asked whether he ever made money by exposing the criminal dealings of the football industry, he replied: “To give you a clear answer: no, never.”

But he did concede he had received “several” offers to sell his data.

“Once, I received an anonymous email in which I was offered more than half a million euros. I turned them all down.”

Responding to the argument that the documents should not be used because they were obtained by illegal means, Pinto said: “Others claim the data has been manipulated, falsified or taken out of context. As a result, they say, it cannot be admitted as evidence in a court of law. I think that’s nonsense. The documents are authentic. That is what matters. This and the content.”

“I researched who were the key protagonists in the crooked football business, which agents and consultants were most often involved in crooked deals. I wanted to expose those dealings.”

Specifically dealing with the tax affairs of Cristiano Ronaldo, he added: “First of all, Ronaldo is my favourite player. I consider him the most complete football player in history. However, his behaviour off the pitch needs to be judged entirely differently – in terms of criminal law. For this purpose, Football Leaks is and has been helpful. It couldn’t care less whether our favourite players or our favourite clubs are affected. Football Leaks shows that it acts really unbiased.”

“I do not consider myself a hacker, just as a normal computer user. In addition, I don’t think it makes any difference whether someone passes on incriminating documents from within a company to the public, or whether they do so with material they receive from outside. In the end it is about whistleblowers exposing dealings which would otherwise remain concealed from society: crimes, wrongdoing and misconduct. In the best case, whistleblowers thereby unleash a public debate and trigger investigation proceedings by the authorities.”

To this day, said Pinto, he never had the feeling he was doing anything illegal.

“Over the years, the European Parliament, media throughout Europe and many investigative authorities have examined my data. I am convinced that what I did was the right thing.”

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