'Football Leaks' trial ends with whistleblower facing April verdict

The trial of the whistleblower behind the 'Football Leaks' revelations, a 34-year-old Portuguese man accused of hacking and attempted extortion, concluded in Lisbon on Monday, with the court due to deliver its verdict on April 28.

"I am fully aware of having committed illegalities," defendant Rui Pinto told the judges at the end of the hearing of a trial which opened more than two years ago.

The documents unveiled by "Football Leaks" from the end of 2015 have brought to light dubious football business practices involving famous players and clubs, leading to tax adjustments and the opening of legal proceedings in several European countries.

Pinto was being tried for 89 hacking offences, which he allegedly committed against the investment fund Doyen Sports, Sporting Lisbon, the Portuguese Football Federation, a law firm and magistrates of the General Prosecutor's Office of the Republic.

He was also on trial for attempted extortion.

The prosecution argued that Pinto tried to blackmail Nelio Lucas, the boss of Doyen, which is based in Malta and controlled by a family of Kazakh-Turkish oligarchs, by demanding between 500,000 and one million euros to stop him publishing compromising documents on the Internet.

He then leaked documents in 2015. They were published in Germany's Der Spiegel and other European outlets and sparked criminal investigations in countries including Britain and France.

"There is no doubt that he is a whistleblower" and not "a computer criminal", his lawyer Francisco Teixeira da Mota pleaded on Monday, stressing that his client had "never earned a penny" from his activity.

Pinto confessed to hacking and regretted his behaviour towards Doyen Sports prompting his lawyer to say: "I was not going to plead acquittal, it wouldn't make sense. A suspended prison sentence would be sufficient."

The public prosecutor, who did not recognise his status as a whistleblower, call for a conviction without specifying whether he should receive a custodial sentence.

Pinto spent more than a year in pre-trial detention following his arrest in Hungary in January 2019 before agreeing to cooperate with authorities in other cases, becoming both a defendant and a protected witness.

Pinto was also behind the "Luanda Leaks", published in January 2020 accusing Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, of fraudulently accumulating a fortune estimated at almost 2 billion euros.

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