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Hacker Rui Pinto facing sentencing – DW – 07/11/2023 | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker


It was the most extensive information leak in sports history and exposed some of the dirtiest secrets in European football.

Now the famous hacker behind ‘Football Leaks’, Rui Pinto, is set to learn his fate in the first of two separate court cases after the original ruling was pushed back in April. 

What was the ‘Football Leaks’ release?

Hailed as a Robin Hood figure in modern football, Pinto has explained in the past that he wanted “to expose the rot in football.” 

Between 2015-18, working under the pseudonym of ‘John,’ he shared a treasure trove of 18.6 million documents and 1.9 terabytes of data with the German news magazine Der Spiegel.  

The leaked files revealed how agents, intermediaries and clubs, including current Champions League and treble winners Manchester City, were perverting ethical and financial regulations to maximize the personal wealth generated by the sport.

A “massive cross-border investigation” followed, looking into “the dirty deals that turned the beautiful game into an industry that extracts millions in cash.”

Who were the ‘Football Leaks’ victims?

When asked by Der Spiegel whether it was all worth it given the charges he was facing in a rare interview during his time in prison, Pinto highlighted “some results” in the search for justice but admitted that “ultimately, you’ll have to be patient to judge if it was all worth it.”  

The ‘Football Leaks’ revelations initially led to several clients of Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes being investigated for tax evasion, including Cristiano Ronaldo. 

The five-time Balon d’Or winner was forced to pay the Spanish tax authorities over 18 million euros in 2019 after admitting he had committed a “voluntary and conscious breach of his fiscal obligations.” 

‘Football Leaks’ also revealed a rape complaint against Ronaldo that was later dismissed by a court in Nevada in 2022.Image: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

While some of Europe’s biggest football clubs also felt the impact, few have been as hard hit as European champions Manchester City, whom the Premier League charged with numerous alleged breaches of financial regulations in February 2023.

What has Rui Pinto been charged with?

The 34-year-old hacker was arrested in Budapest in 2019 and extradited to his home country of Portugal to face trial in 2020, where he spent a brief spell in prison before being released in August of that year. 

Pinto is facing 89 hacking charges and an additional charge of attempted extortion, a crime punishable by between two and ten years in prison in Portugal.

During evidence, Pinto told the court that he should be given protective status as a whistle-blower. But while ‘Football Leaks’ did uncover punishable breaches of the law, he admitted to hacking and expressed remorse for an alleged attempt at blackmailing Nelio Lucas, the public face of investment fund Doyen Sports.

Christoph Winterbach, sports journalist, on revelations from the Football Leaks database.

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Pinto said he was “outraged by what I discovered, and I decided to make it public — I never did anything for money” but recognized that his “conduct could be framed as extortion.”

The trial also heard that his alleged victims included top Portuguese football club Sporting Lisbon and the Portuguese Football Federation.

Is Rui Pinto facing any other charges?

On July 4, the Portuguese Public Ministry opened a new case against Pinto, in which he is facing 377 separate charges.

The indictment states that 202 offenses are for qualified unlawful access, 134 for violation of correspondence, 23 for aggravated violation of correspondence, and 18 for computer damage.

Most of the charges are reported to pertain to Pinto accessing and subsequently sending confidential emails from Portuguese football club Benfica to the director of communications at rival outfit Porto, Francisco Marques. 

“The investigation is not finished, and it is unlikely that the criminal police body which was assigned the task of carrying it out will finalize it in the coming months,” wrote Vera Camacho, of the Public Prosecution Service, in the indictment. 

In a statement made by Pinto’s lawyers on his behalf, they claim “the indictment is part of the prosecution’s strategy to perpetuate Pinto’s judicial career.”

Pinto says he was also behind the ‘Luanda Leaks’, a trove of 715,000 emails, contracts, audits and other documents that explain how Isabel dos Santos — daughter of late Angolan dictator Jose dos Santos — built a business empire and became the wealthiest woman in Africa.

Edited by: Matt Ford

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