Manchester City, which plays at Etihad Stadium, has faced repercussions over the leaks. Image: Jonny Gios via Unsplash

Hacker who exposed some of soccer's dirtiest secrets charged in Portugal

The hacker behind the Football Leaks scandal — which exposed tax fraud, corruption, and other wrongdoing at Europe's biggest soccer clubs — was charged in Portugal last Friday.

Rui Pinto, the 34-year-old Portuguese national dubbed football’s Edward Snowden for his WikiLeaks-style operation, currently faces 377 different charges, including mail tampering and computer damage, according to the indictment.

Pino was arrested in Hungary in 2019 and extradited back to Portugal. He was already convicted of 90 computer crimes and extortion in a separate trial and now awaits sentencing, which is scheduled to take place later in July.

From 2015 to 2019, Pinto leaked 70 million documents and 3.4 terabytes of data from several high-profile soccer clubs and top Premier League players to Der Spiegel, the German news magazine.

Investigations based on these documents allegedly led to the conviction of dozens of top soccer players for tax evasion. A leak also revealed rape allegations made by a woman in Las Vegas against Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the world’s best soccer players.

Ronaldo’s legal team said the leaked document published by Der Spiegel was “completely fabricated.” Ronaldo could be called as a witness in the case along with more than 100 others.

Other clubs allegedly affected by Pinto’s leak include current Premier League champion Manchester City, Spanish soccer clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Portugal’s most successful club, Benfica.

Manchester City faced over 100 charges of financial misconduct following the publication of Der Spiegel’s investigation, exposing the club's breaches of financial fair play regulations over a nine-year period. Now the club may face a fine or points deduction.

Like Snowden, Pino has both critics and supporters. Some believe that his documents played a crucial role in exposing the darkest secrets of soccer — a $3.2 billion industry — while others still view his actions as criminal. Following his release from custody in August 2020, Pinto has remained under police protection at an undisclosed location due to security concerns. He has always cooperated with the prosecutors and called himself a whistleblower deserving of protective status.

“I never did anything for money," he said in one of the interviews. "I was outraged by what I discovered and I decided to make it public."

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk

is a reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.