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Hacker Rui Pinto’s ruling postponed again – DW – 07/13/2023 | #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.

The famous hacker behind the so-called Football Leaks, Rui Pinto, was set to learn his fate in the first of two separate court cases on Thursday. However, his ruling has been pushed back for a second time after it was originally postponed in April due to an upcoming visit by Pope Francis in August to attend World Youth Day in Lisbon.

In June, the upcoming pope visit prompted Portugal’s majority Socialist government to announce a one-year pardon for young people aged 16-30 serving sentences of up to eight years.

In a statement, Judge Margarida Alves said Pinto was covered by the law due to his age at the time the crimes he is accused of were committed. “It would be useless to deliver a ruling that then, days later, might have to be changed,” Alves said.

The ruling will now take place on July 31 if the amnesty law comes into force by July 28, or on September 11 if it does not.

What was the Football Leaks release?

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

From 2015 to 2018, working under the pseudonym of John, Pinto 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 football.

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, in a rare interview during Pinto’s time in prison, Der Spiegel asked whether it was all worth it given the charges he was facing, Pinto highlighted “some results” in the search for justice. “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 Ballon d’Or winner was forced to pay the Spanish tax authorities over €18 million ($20 million) 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 Nevada court in 2022Image: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

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

What has Pinto been charged with?

The 34-year-old hacker was arrested in Budapest in 2019 and extradited in 2020 to face trial in his home country of Portugal, 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 two to 10 years in prison in Portugal.

During evidence, Pinto told the court he should be given protective status as a whistleblower. 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 he 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 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,” Vera Camacho, of the Public Prosecution Service, wrote 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 said 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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