Hero or hacker? Portuguese have held whistleblower Pinto for 6 months without charge

By Andrew Warshaw

September 19 – The lawyer representing  Rui Pinto, whose string of incriminating leaks shook the footballing world before he was controversially extradited from Hungary to his native Portugal,  has denounced the Portuguese authorities for holding his client without charge and claims he would never have been jailed in other leading western democracies based on the accusations against him.

Pinto is accused of stealing data, including from the Portuguese state, but his supporters have long claimed that his whistleblowing status should have been protected rather than him 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.

Some of Pinto’s revelations exposing the shady dealings of some of Europe’s biggest clubs and stars are now being formally investigated by football’s authorities. But he has so far been in investigative detention in Lisbon for almost six months accused of being a cyber-criminal after being taken into custody in March.

Germany’s Der Spiegel has been at the forefront of publishing confidential documents shared with its partners in the journalistic network European Investigative Collaborations and Bourdon told the publication it was highly irregular for his client to have been detained for so long in the absence of formal charges.

“It is indeed uncommon to hold someone in detention for that long without a formal charge,” said Bourdon. “In addition, it completely contradicts what is expected and requested by European Parliament, the European Commission and the civil society as a whole. The consensus is that protections for whistleblowers must be increased.”

Bourdon says he has struggled to obtain any information about the case from the Portuguese side.

“The investigations are more or less secret in Portugal. Here in France, you have more access to the files. I can easily obtain a copy of the file, but there is a level of restriction in Portugal which does not facilitate the lawyer’s work.”

He further insists there is no valid reason to keep Pinto behind bars.

“The Portuguese authorities could release him under strict legal mandates that he not be allowed to leave Portugal and must report to the judge.”

“There’s absolutely no risk, as there sometimes is with other criminal suspects, that Pinto will intimidate anyone or that he could jeopardise or damage the investigation. In Germany, France, England or Italy, Pinto would never have been sent to jail based on the accusations against him.

“We are expecting that he will be notified of the charges against him. If there is no charge, he will be released.”

Bourdon is reluctant in his interview with Der Spiegel, however, to comment on Pinto’s methods.

Asked whether a hacker can actually be considered a whistleblower, he replied: “It’s not the duty of a lawyer to clarify the methods of his client. Football Leaks comes from various sources, not only Pinto. As a lawyer, I’m not going to distinguish what comes from hacking and what is not.”

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