Whistleblower Pinto’s trial opens with claim he acted in public, not money, interest

By Andrew Warshaw

September 7 – Rui Pinto, the Portuguese whistleblower whose string of incriminating revelations shook the footballing world before he was controversially extradited from Hungary, has told a Lisbon court that he acted in order to expose corruption and was proud of it.

Pinto’s explosive disclosures as part of the ‘Football Leaks’ file shed an unprecedented light on the sport’s murky dealings and  highlighted a raft of dubious activities by leading clubs and star players that led to legal proceedings in France, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland.

Some of the data he exposed is reported to have contributed to UEFA’s financial fair play case against Manchester City, whose two-year Champions League ban was recently overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport

Millions of documents were leaked but in his native Portugal, Pinto is accused of attempted extortion, computer hacking and breach of correspondence covering 90 alleged crimes.

After leaking the hacked documents in 2016, Pinto fled Portugal and took refuge in Hungary before being tracked down and extradited. On his return to Portugal he was placed in pre-trial detention for a year but was then released to house arrest after cooperating with Portuguese prosecutors by giving them access to a mass of encrypted unpublished documents.

In Portugal, attempted extortion is punishable by up to 10 years in prison but Pinto, whose revelations covered the period between 2015-18,  has always maintained his innocence and told the start of his much-publicised trial after almost 18 months of preventative detention – seven of them in isolation – that Football Leaks were “a reason for pride and not shame.”

“I was outraged by what I discovered and I decided to make it public,”  Pinto, 31, said in a brief initial statement on Friday. “My job as a whistleblower is over. I never did anything for money.”

Pinto, who had lived in Hungary since 2015,  admitted he used the pseudonym ‘John’, but insisted he is not a criminal. “I’m a whistleblower. I published a lot of information that’s in the public interest,” he told the court saying he was “shocked and disgusted” by what he discovered. “I made public a lot of things that never would have been known.”

Having co-operated with the Portuguese authorities in recent months, Pinto said he was “in the weird position of being accused and a protected witness at the same time.”

The trial is expected to last several months and Pinto’s lawyers will argue that he has helped authorities across Europe and beyond to tackle crime. They are apparently planning to call 45 witnesses.

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