A court in Portugal on Monday convicted the hacker Rui Pinto over his “Football Leaks” revelations that exposed dodgy dealings in international football, sentencing him to a suspended four-year prison term.
Pinto, 34, had argued that had had kicked off criminal investigations in five European countries, but he 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.
“On the whole, the facts described [by prosecutors] have been considered proven,” presiding judge Margarida Alves told the court in Lisbon.
“The freedom to inform does not justify violations of privacy,” she said, adding that “It has clearly been established that he was hoping to get money.”
Pinto, who was released pending the trial, appeared in court wearing a surgical mask and his trademark outfit of jeans and dark blue shirt.He had faced a total of 89 counts of hacking offences to secure the documents, which he began leaking in late 2015.
Over the next three years he shared 18.6 million documents on the internet and with a consortium of European newspapers, which published details.
The revelations shook the football world.
They included the salaries of Lionel Messi and Neymar, an accusation of rape against Cristiano Ronaldo, alleged financial sleight of hand at Manchester City and ethnic profiling at Paris Saint Germain.
Defendant and witness
When his trial began in September 2020, Pinto told the court he had been shocked by what he had discovered and was proud of bringing it to public knowledge.
But he has admitted he used illegal means to obtain documents.
His alleged victims include top Portuguese football club Sporting Lisbon, the Portuguese Football Federation, lawyers, magistrates and Doyen Sports, a Malta-based investment fund run by Kazakh-Turkish oligarchs.
Pinto was arrested in Hungary in 2019 and extradited to Portugal, where he spent a year behind bars before agreeing to cooperate with the Portuguese authorities on other cases, giving them access to encrypted documents he had obtained — making him both a defendant and a protected witness in Portugal.
The French authorities have also sought his cooperation over the “Luanda Leaks”, a release of 715,000 documents providing compromising information on Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
Dos Santos, once the richest woman in Africa, has faced several court cases on charges she siphoned billions of dollars from Angolan state companies during her father’s four decades in office.