Internet hackers using the dark web invaded the websites of the Portuguese association of umpires (APAF) and the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Posting a photograph of Football Leaks’ whistleblower Rui Pinto (in jail on remand pending trial since last March), the group “criticised Portuguese justice for not investigating the corruption in Portuguese football on the basis of the information collected by Rui Pinto”, explain reports.
This has always been the controversy surrounding this story. When is a hacker a whistleblower operating with noble intentions (in this case, exposure of alleged corrupt practices), and when is he or she a criminal?
According to Judge Cláudia Pina, hearing the so-called instruction phase, Rui Pinto is the latter and should be charged with 90 crimes of illegitimate access.
Pinto’s defence will be arguing what the 31-year-old has said since the very beginning – that he was simply trying to expose the rot at the heart of Portuguese football (click here).
In interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel just before Christmas, Pinto said that “the Portuguese authorities are afraid of what I know” and for that reason he has worked hard on ‘not losing his mind’ while in being kept locked up in a jail cell.
He stressed the positive results, in his view, of his unauthorised investigations… “The tax cases against football superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, José Mourinho, Radamel Falcao and Ángel Di María. There are investigations in Belgium and France” he added, but whether it will have all been worth it, only time will tell.
Der Spiegel reminds its readers that Football Leaks data “revealed a system of tax evasion that top football players used to shift parts of their image rights to tax havens. As a consequence of the revelations, Ronaldo had to accept a two-suspended sentence and pay around 19 million euros”.
But Pinto’s folly, he accepts, was naivety. He believed authorities would be interested in the data he gathered “which contains a lot of evidence of crimes committed by powerful people in the football world. I revealed wrongdoing in the interest of the common good. But the only one who gets prosecuted is me, the whistleblower. They portray me as a danger to public safety”.
And so this case will be widely watched from all angles.
One of Pinto’s unerring ‘champions’ has been anti-corruption ‘bulldog’ Ana Gomes, currently enjoying positive notoriety in the form of exposure of Luanda Leaks.
Whether this will strengthen Pinto’s case remains to be seen.
But for now his supporters on the dark web have laid down the challenge. They have “access to all the Portuguese football federations”, and depending on what happens next, they may use it.
Says Correio da Manhã today, PJ police have “opened an investigation into the attack on APAF’s site” but due to its origin, the hackers’ whereabouts will be difficult to trace.