One of the lawyers representing Rui Pinto hopes the man behind the Football Leaks website, who is under house arrest awaiting trial for attempted blackmail, could soon be released as negotiations with the Portuguese authorities continue.

Pinto was extradited from Hungary in March 2019 for allegedly attempting to blackmail an investment fund and spent more than a year in custody before being moved last month to an apartment owned by Lisbon’s Judiciary Police, where he is banned from using the internet. He denies all wrongdoing.

The 31-year-old’s lawyer William Bourdon confirmed that discussions were advancing over sharing information with the Portuguese authorities pertaining to two separate investigations into money laundering – one involving Africa’s richest woman and the other several high-profile football figures – but he said it was “a complex game”.

“He is under house arrest but we are hoping in the next few weeks to change his position,” Bourdon told the Guardian. “We hope that he could be free as soon as possible without any restrictions.

“We had a conversation with the chief of the investigations with the approval of the prosecutor all because the wind changed in Portugal. I cannot give the details other than to just confirm what I have said already: step by step we are starting to enter into a cordial relationship in order to envisage co-operation. But it’s a complex game so we will see. I trust that every stakeholder will want to act in good faith, pragmatically and in the common interest.”

Pinto, through his Football Leaks website, provided some of the evidence that led to Manchester City’s Champions League ban after the club were found to have seriously misled Uefa and broken financial fair play rules – a decision they have appealed against to the court of arbitration for sport. He also triggered numerous investigations into tax evasion and corruption in football.

Pinto was unveiled as the source of the Luanda Leaks, which in January exposed the inner workings of the business empire of Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, after Bourdon established the anti-corruption charity Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) and shared the files with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Dos Santos is being investigated for alleged embezzlement, money laundering and document forgery in Angola and has denied any wrongdoing. Portuguese authorities hope Pinto can provide crucial information to help the prosecutors.



William Bourdon, one of the lawyers respresenting Rui Pinto. Photograph: Tiago Petinga/EPA

“If Football Leaks created an earthquake, it also created a kind of hostility towards Pinto because he was trying to destroy the economic ‘wall’ of football,” Bourdon said. “Little by little, some people saw that all this information from Football Leaks could be helpful to uncover a world that is infected by criminality.

“But Luanda Leaks was another level entirely. Most responsible Portuguese citizens and politicians are now grateful to Pinto for helping to accelerate the investigation.”

He added: “They know that she has acquired real estate in Portugal and is one of the richest individuals in the world and so you have seen there was a change of perception towards Rui Pinto. Suddenly there was a new approach towards him.”

Bourdon confirmed that Pinto had spoken to the Portuguese authorities in connection with their Operation Fora de Jogo (Operation Offside) investigation into alleged tax evasion and money laundering. Almost 300 tax and police inspectors from the public prosecutor’s office conducted 76 searches, including of the offices of the top‑division sides Porto, Benfica, Sporting, Braga, Guimarães, Marítimo, Estoril and Portimonense and the super-agent Jorge Mendes at the start of March. The clubs have denied wrongdoing; Mendes has not commented.

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Pinto has hinted that key evidence relating to that investigation is contained in the 12 hard drives seized from his apartment in Budapest when he was arrested, although only he knows the passwords to access millions of documents contained in them.

“The trial according to Portuguese law should be heard by September at the latest,” said Bourdon. “But I hope that he will appear before a judge before then as a free man, which obviously would change everything.”

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