SPORTS LAW AT THE CROSSROADS

Whistleblower Pinto shipped back to Portugal to face ‘extortion’ charges

By Andrew Warshaw

March 22 – Rui Pinto, the man behind a string of incriminating leaks that shook the footballing world, has been controversially extradited from Hungary, where he had been living, to his native Portugal.

For weeks, Pinto and his supporters have claimed that his whistleblowing status should have been protected rather than be treated as hacker whose actions led to millions of confidential documents  being provided to the Football Leaks website and then published by a string of media groups.

Reports said Pinto arrived in Lisbon on Thursday on a flight from Budapest. The Portuguese prosecutor has charged him “aggravated attempted extortion” and data theft.

He is accused of stealing data, including from the Portuguese state, and of having attempted to blackmail the sports agency, Doyen, before making his revelations.

The 30-year-old insists he has done nothing wrong in exposing the shady dealings of some of Europe’s biggest clubs and stars, some of which are now being formally investigated by football’s authorities.

“I was collaborating with the French authorities, starting a collaboration with Swiss authorities and probably to start another European collaboration, and suddenly Portugal sabotaged everything,” he said. “I have no confidence in the Portuguese authorities.”

Pinto had been living in Budapest since 2015 and tried to fight his extradition which could land him with a 10-year prison term. He claims he will not get a fair trial in Portugal because “the mafia is everywhere”.

In a recent interview with Der Spiegel, which broke a series of stories about alleged financial mismanagement at the highest level, he protested his innocence.

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

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