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Football Leaks 'whistleblower' faces more than 100 charges

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By Catarina Demony

LISBON (Reuters) – Portuguese prosecutors on Thursday brought more than 100 charges against a man who allegedly accessed and published confidential documents belonging to leading soccer clubs and officials.

Rui Pinto, believed to be the mastermind behind Football Leaks, was detained in Hungary in January on a European arrest warrant issued by Portuguese authorities on suspicion of extortion and secrecy violations.

The 30-year-old Pinto was extradited to Portugal in March and has been in custody in a Lisbon jail since.

Prosecutors said in a statement they had brought a total of 147 charges against Pinto, mostly related to alleged crimes of unauthorised access to data, attempted extortion and violation of correspondence.

Prosecutors said Pinto created Football leaks in 2015 to share confidential documents of national and international organisations, both public and private, including leading Portuguese soccer club Sporting Lisbon.

Documents included transfer fees, agreements between sports entities, contracts and information related to players’ agencies, prosecutors said.

“(Pinto) installed various computer programs and digital tools on his equipment that allowed him, in a disguised and anonymous way, to enter the computer systems and third-party mailboxes and remove content from it,” they said.

Prosecutors believe Pinto should remain in jail. A trial date is yet to be set.

Pinto’s lawyers could not be immediately reached for comment but they have repeatedly defended him as a “whistleblower” who acted in the public interest.

At a meeting in February organised by the European Union agency Eurojust, French prosecutors said they collaborated with Pinto to conduct their own investigations and had analysed 12 million files, including emails, provided by him.

During the same meeting, prosecutors from other countries, including Belgium, expressed their desire to use Football Leaks data to open investigations.

Lawyers have said that Pinto wants to collaborate but will not be able to do so if Portuguese authorities keep him behind bars.

(Reporting by Catarina Demony, editing by Ed Osmond)

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