LISBON, Portugal (AP) — A Portuguese hacker whose bombshell revelations on the “Football Leaks” website rocked European soccer was convicted Monday by a Lisbon court of nine crimes and given a suspended prison sentence of four years.
The three-judge panel found Rui Pinto, now 34 years old, guilty on five counts of unauthorized entry into computer systems, three counts of intercepting correspondence for accessing emails, and one count of attempted extortion, Portuguese media reported.
The court convicted Pinto of hacking computers belonging to the Doyen sports investment fund, the Portuguese attorney general’s office and a Lisbon law firm. It was not proven he had hacked a website belonging to the Portuguese soccer federation, the judges said.
Pinto’s disclosures embarrassed star players, top clubs and influential agents between 2015-18 and helped drive official investigations across Europe.
The website published information about the transfer fees and salaries of such stars as Neymar, then at Barcelona, Radamel Falcao at Monaco and Gareth Bale at Real Madrid. It also alleged that Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain flouted European soccer’s spending rules.
During his trial, Pinto admitted he was behind the information published on the website that was set up in 2015 but argued he is a whistleblower, not a criminal. However, he added: “My work as a whistleblower is finished.”
He said he had acted in the public interest for no personal gain. However, the court found him guilty of extortion in his dealings with Doyen.
His lawyers told the court that Pinto has helped authorities in Europe and beyond to tackle crime in the sport, especially murky financial dealings.
Pinto was cooperating with authorities in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Malta in their soccer investigations, they said.
After his arrest, Pinto spent 18 months in pre-trial detention in Lisbon, including seven months in isolation, before being released after starting to cooperate with Portuguese police and entering a witness protection program.
Pinto told the judges he was ”shocked and disgusted” by what he found in his hacking activities.
When he was extradited from Hungary, from where he hacked computers, to Portugal in 2015 to stand trial, Pinto was poised to enter a witness protection program in France, according to Pinto’s lawyers.
Pinto was granted amnesty for dozens of other crimes as part of a wider government decree giving pardons for lesser offenses that marked the visit to Portugal last month of Pope Francis.
In a second case against Pinto that still has to be tried, Portuguese prosecutors are accusing him of 377 hacking-related crimes.
That case could also take years to reach a verdict under the slow-moving Portuguese legal system.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer