Portuguese police announced yesterday the arrest of a Portuguese man in Hungary who they believe hacked, stole, and then leaked secret documents from European football (soccer) clubs during the past four years.
Authorities didn’t disclose the man’s name, but local newspaper Record identified the suspect as Rui Pinto, a man who several newspapers from Spain, Portugal, and Germany previously named as the shadowy figure behind the infamous Football Leaks portal.
Since 2015, the Football Leaks website operated a-la WikiLeaks, publishing secret documents that it claimed it obtained from anonymous sources. The site, a mere WordPress.com blog, made the documents available for everyone, but also to teams of investigative journalists across Europe.
The documents helped reveal the football world’s shady inter-club player transfers that included shell companies and a slew of intermediaries that siphoned off huge bonuses from each player transaction.
The site also revealed how top European football clubs like Machester City and Paris Saint Germain often broke regulations, dumped private emails from David Beckham, and revealed how Jose Mourinho avoided paying taxes on millions.
The website temporarily ceased its activity in 2016 after several football clubs made allegations that the site’s owner tried to extort money from them for not publishing certain files.
Some clubs blamed the 2015-2016 leaks on FIFA, the international football federation. They claimed that FIFA was the only entity from where a hacker could have gotten these documents at once. However, Portuguese club Benfica said at the time that some of the leaked documents were only available on its systems, and asked Portuguese police to investigate.
However, the Football Leaks portal didn’t stay silent for long, and came back to life this past fall when FIFA admitted to a new hack and warned the football world of impending leaks.
The leaks didn’t fail to arrive, first with the details about rape allegations made by a US model against football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, and then with the revelation that several major European football clubs where planning their own private league.
Pinto, who is only 30 years old, now awaits in Budapest to be extradited to Portugal, where he could face up to ten years in prison.
The European Investigative Collaborations (EIC), the pan-European investigative journalism organization who received all the Football Leaks files, said it received 18.6 million documents in 2016, a number which it now updated to over 70 million.
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