Rui Pinto, the founder of Football Leaks, appears in court over revealing confidential information about tax evasion and corruption in multi-million dollar dealings of European football clubs.
The lawsuit against Rui Pinto, who is the creator of Football Leaks website where a huge amount of documents exposing the multi-million dealings of European football clubs, started on Friday in Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal.
The 31-year-old former history student is on trial for 90 charges including unauthorised access to data, violation of correspondence and attempted extortion.
Pinto describes himself as a whistleblower, rather than hacker, for exposing tens of millions of documents in the public interest.
Pinto says he wanted to unmask the dark side of football and will reportedly call 45 witnesses during his defence, including fugitive US intelligence leaker, Edward Snowden.
Pinto was arrested in Hungary in January 2019, though he was later freed from house arrest and is now living under witness protection.
“The fight carries on because nearly two years later Portugal is still a haven for big corruption and money laundering,” Pinto wrote on Twitter recently.
The trial is expected to last until December.
What is included in Football Leaks?
The Football Leaks website, a football version of Wikileaks, contains nearly 70 million documents. This information has been used by many media organisations in the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) consortium.
As a main source of hundreds of articles over football corruption, the website’s confidential data has provided tax evasion and undercover agreements between players and top football clubs.
In the Football Leaks documents, it is revealed how some clubs and richest football figures avoided tax by channelling money to offshore accounts.
Moreover, Pinto also showed some pieces of evidence on how Gulf individuals and organisations became influential in the sport, as well as how they can exercise their power in European football.
Pinto paved ways to open legal inquiries in several European countries, such as Spain, France, Switzerland and Belgium, over the corruption in football.
The documents provided some of the evidence that led to a ban – since overturned – on English Premier League club Manchester City from competing in the European Champions League for alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play rules.
According to the data, huge transfer deals were weakly monitored and policed by the governing bodies of football which raises questions about the reliability of these bodies.
One of the most powerful football agents Jorge Mendes, was also investigated after the leaks. He holds agency rights for many stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva, Angel Di Maria, James Rodriguez, and many others.
Juventus superstar Ronaldo, formerly of Real Madrid, agreed to pay a $22 million fine for tax evasion in January in Spain, after being investigated.