March 6 – A suspected hacker arrested in Hungary with links to the Football Leaks whistleblower website has been controversially ordered to be extradited to his native Portugal.
Rui Pinto, whose information led to the publication of internal documents that heaped suspicion and embarrassment on a raft of top European clubs over their financial dealings, is wanted in his homeland for “aggravated attempted extortion, illegitimate access and theft of data from some institutions, including the state itself”.
His lawyers have appealed the ruling by the Budapest Metropolitan Court, with Pinto saying he fears for his life.
“(It’s) a matter of life or death,” Pinto told the court. “I ask you, please don’t send me back to Portugal.”
Football Leaks began as a website in 2015 revealing often bombshell allegations picked up by German magazine Der Spiegel and shared with more than a dozen members of the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) media co-operative.
The private documents Pinto allegedly hacked included details about a number of players’ contracts and clubs’ plans and conversations. Reports say he used a string of hacking techniques to gather and leak information. Up to 70 million documents have been provided by Football Leaks and more than 3.4 terabytes of information shared by EIC’s media outlets.
In his ruling, judge Judit Csiszar said: “The extradition request cannot be refused. EU member states are expected to have similar judicial standards.”
But Pinto insists Portuguese authorities offered him no protection even though there are European laws to protect whistleblowers and that he was a “marked man” ever since Portuguese media had revealed his identity.
“Unfortunately, I can’t trust the Portuguese authorities,” said Pinto, who spoke with reporters during a break in the court proceedings and after the ruling was issued.
“A lot of European investigations were opened thanks to the revelations brought by Football Leaks and the medias involved in the Football Leaks. I have not committed any of the criminal acts that I am accused of, I have never received any material gain for what I have done.”
“I should be on a witness protection scheme as exists for whistleblowers elsewhere in Europe. Instead, the Portuguese authorities are treating me like a criminal. It is in their interest that something bad happens to me.”
“I appreciate all the support that me and Football Leaks received. I hope the support will increase now, I did this for the public, for all the football fans.”
If Pinto is extradited, agency reports said Portuguese authorities will receive a large cache of computer and communications equipment confiscated by Hungarian police when they arrested him at his Budapest home.
Pinto has been living in the Hungarian capital since early 2015 and won’t be going anywhere for the time being since the appeals process is expected to last several weeks.
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