Football Leaks Founder Rui Pinto Avoids Prison with Suspended Sentence

by | Sep 13, 2023 | Football

Rui Pinto, the man behind the Football Leaks website that exposed confidential football transfer and contract information, has avoided imprisonment.

A Portuguese court has handed Pinto a four-year suspended sentence after finding him guilty of attempted extortion, illegal data access, and breach of correspondence.

The 34-year-old founded the website in 2015 and leaked millions of documents.

He argued that he was a whistleblower rather than a hacker.

Pinto, a former history student and self-taught computer expert, was arrested in Hungary in January 2019 but was later released from house arrest and placed under witness protection. His trial began in September 2020.

His website provided confidential information to media outlets in the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) consortium, a network of journalists.

Pinto faced 90 criminal charges and was accused of computer fraud, attempted extortion, and violating privacy of correspondence.

He claimed that his actions were in the public interest to expose corruption in football, which his lawyer said the Monday’s verdict recognizes.

However, Judge Margarida Alves told the court in Lisbon: “Freedom to inform does not justify violations of privacy.”

She added: “The court has no doubt… It has clearly been established that he was hoping to receive money.

“The court hopes that the regret [shown by Rui Pinto] is serious and that from now on he refrains from performing acts as described here.”

Pinto was convicted on five counts of “illegitimate access” to IT systems and three counts of “correspondence violations,” along with attempted extortion against the investment fund Doyen Sports.

Prosecutors alleged that Pinto sought between 500,000 to one million euros (£429,400 to £858,800) from the head of Doyen Sports, Nelio Lucas, to stop publishing compromising documents.

The leaks began in 2016 and, over a two-year period, included the salaries of Argentina great Lionel Messi and Brazil forward Neymar, undercover talks regarding the creation of the European Super League, and alleged cases of tax evasion by several top footballers.

In November 2018, German publication Der Spiegel claimed Manchester City and their sponsors manipulated contracts to circumvent Uefa’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations and said its source was a whistleblower they called “John,” which was the pseudonym Pinto used under the name Football Leaks.

In February 2020, City were given a two-season European club competition ban by Uefa, but the club successfully overturned the suspension five months later on appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).

Cas said City were cleared of “disguising equity funds as sponsorship contributions,” but that the club did “fail to cooperate with Uefa authorities.” It also reduced an initial fine imposed on City from 30 million euros to 10 million euros.

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