The man behind the Luanda Leaks that exposed how the Angolan president’s daughter embezzled millions of euros through her companies based in Malta, the Malta Files exposing the underbelly of Malta’s offshore corporate system and the Football Leaks began giving statements in his trial in Portugal this week.
Rui Pinto stands accused of a total of 90 crimes: six of illegitimate access, one of computer sabotage, 14 of tampering with correspondence, 68 of improper access and one charge of attempted extortion against a Malta-based football agent.
The Luanda Leaks exposed how Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the former President of Angola, set up a complex web of shell companies to allegedly channel undue profits enabled by nepotism.
Of those shell companies, 14 were set up in Malta to take advantage of the Maltese corporate regime for such illicit dealings.
In court on Tuesday, Pinto finally began giving statements in a trial that has been ongoing since September 2020.
He has already admitted to releasing 70 million documents on transactions involving top European football clubs but argues he is a whistleblower and not a criminal
Pinto is accused of hacking into the computer systems of a number of professional football clubs and intermediaries, to reveal the inner dealings of clubs, players and agents.
Pinto’s lawyers argue he has authorities tackle crime in football, especially when it comes to the game’s more obscure financial wheelings and dealings and insists his motivation was a public duty to expose serious wrongdoings that had gone unnoticed by authorities.
In a letter to the trial judge, Pinto’s lawyers said he was “outraged” by illicit financial activity in European football and decided to investigate what was taking place because the authorities weren’t doing enough. He insists a “substantial part” of the information he revealed was anonymously leaked to him and not hacked.
His lawyers insist he is “a very important European whistleblower” and plan to summon at least 45 witnesses, including Edward Snowden, a former employee of the American intelligence charged with espionage, and the former French financial judge Eva Joly.
Pinto managed to obtain millions of documents and correspondence, which were then published on the Football Leaks website before being sent to media houses.
German news magazine Der Spiegel was the first to publish the leaks in 2016. Pinto admits he was behind the documents but insists he “acted in good faith.”
The trove of information revealed details about the transfer fees and salaries of a number of the game’s top players, including Brazil’s Neymar, then at Barcelona FC, Radamel Falcao, who at the time was playing for AS Monaco, and Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale.
The documents also alleged that two of European football’s biggest clubs – Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain – ignored spending regulations imposed by UEFA.
Pinto faces 90 charges related to hacking computer systems, including those at the Portuguese attorney general’s office, the Portuguese Football Federation, Sporting Lisbon football club, and Doyen sports management firm.
Amongst the other charges, Pinto is also accused of hacking Doyen Sports, an investment fund based in Malta, which was at the heart of the Football Leaks scandal. He also stands accused of asking Doyen for as much as €1 million to stop him publishing compromising documents he had retrieved and of having hacked Sporting, a Lisbon football club.
If found guilty on all charges, Pinto could face decades in prison.
Pinto’s defence team on Tuesday asked for the magistrate’s recusal, which was denied, and a complaint has been filed at the European Court of Human Rights.
Pinto said in court on Tuesday that he has also been helping Ukraine’s secret services: “Some friends and I have been giving information to the Ukrainian intelligence services,” he said, explaining how the data consists of intercepts of radio communications, satellite images and some locations of Russian troops – all through open sources.
“I have done things legally,” he stressed.
As for the Luanda Leaks, Pinto observed how Isabel dos Santos continues to “live peacefully in Dubai”.
“Secrecy between client and lawyer should not be used to protect the practice of crimes”, he said in court on Tuesday. “I have already called them the architects of the biggest money laundering and tax fraud schemes. There is a lot of impunity. everything, I have not given up despite fighting for transparency and truth”.
According to the Luanda Leaks investigation conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Angolese billionaire Isabel dos Santos and her husband Sindika Dokolo have or held a stake as shareholders in 14 companies that were set up in Malta, making it a “popular” destination for the couples, according to an investigation done by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The links to Malta with Africa’s wealthiest woman and her husband were revealed in the Luanda Leaks, the investigation that leaked around 700,000 financial and business records showing how dos Santos built her business empire over two decades on “insider deals” that left oil and diamond-rich Angola “one of the poorest countries on Earth”. The documents were leaked following work by the Protect Whistleblowers in Africa platform and the ICIJ.
In fact, the number of host companies earned Malta the title of a “popular” destination for the couple.
Malta, in fact, had the third-highest number of companies linked to the couple’s business empire, naturally following Angola (81) and Portugal (17).