Rui Pinto: Meet the hacker who exposed Manchester City’s financial recklessness

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Portuguese hacker Rui Pinto has been revealed as the man who published leaked documents on German newspaper Der Spiegel in November 2018 alleging that Manchester City inflated the value of a sponsorship deal and misleading UEFA.

He created a website called Football Leaks in 2015 and has exposed clubs evading tax to some breaching Financial Fair Play (FFP). Pinto also helped prompt United States officials to reopen a sexual assault investigation involving Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 31-year-old also alleged that City deliberately misled the European football governing body so they could meet the FFP rules and regulations. Pinto, who worked under a pseudonym, got access to over 70 million documents that proved all sorts of financial impropriety by a host of European clubs.

He was the hacker that leaked FC Twente’s failure to reveal full details of a third-party ownership contract with Malta-based Doyen Sports Investments. The leak led to the Dutch FA banning Twente from European football for three years. His website also revealed details of transfers involving Radamel Falco, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez.

The Portuguese hacker was arrested in Hungary and extradited to Portugal. He has been in prison since March 2019 while awaiting trial after he was charged with 147 different counts of hacking, sabotage, and fraud in his home country’s prosecutor. The Portuguese authorities continued to pursue him as a criminal while his supporters and legal team have sought to portray him as a whistle-blower.

The Portuguese prosecutors accused Pinto of asking as much as 1 million euros in return for deleting information belonging to the company, Doyen Sports. Pinto’s legal team released a statement on Friday in which they accused the government of waging a campaign to “silence and destroy” their client and block his efforts to cooperate with investigators elsewhere.

He will see the ban of the Premier League champions from European competition by UEFA for the next two years as a victory after he was denied an appeal by a Portuguese court on Thursday. Moments after the ban, hashtag ‘Free Pinto’ started to trend on Twitter with some of Pinto’s fans showing support for him and calling for his release.

Pinto recently told Der Spiegel he was aware that he could end up in prison, adding that the Portuguese authorities are afraid of what he knows.

“I was aware that anything could happen. I knew that Portuguese authorities prosecute whistleblowers, so I had to be ready for that,” he said.

“The Portuguese authorities are afraid of what I know and that’s why it is important that I not lose my mind.

“In the beginning, I wrote notes related to the case in my notebook, but then it was taken from me. My lawyer was present when they searched my cell and said it was illegal to take my notes from me.

“It wasn’t the prison guards who did it, but the Portuguese prosecutors. They do anything they want. It was a month before they returned the notebook to me.”

According to Pinto, his aim of leaking the documents is to sanitise football and ensure that clubs comply with UEFA’s rules and regulations.

Pinto added: “I don’t consider myself as a hacker, but a citizen who acted for public interest.

“My sole intention was to reveal illicit practices that affect the world of football.”