Portugal urged to drop charges against “Football Leaks” whistleblower
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Hungarian authorities not extradite Rui Pinto, the Portuguese whistleblower behind the major “Football Leaks” revelations about illegal practices in the soccer industry, and calls on the Portuguese authorities to drop all proceedings against him.
Arrested in Budapest on 16 January under a European warrant issued by Portugal that accuses him of “attempted extortion,” “data theft,” “illegal access” to information and “violating secrets,” Rui Pinto is the source of revelations that have led to criminal investigations into soccer industry malfeasance being initiated in several countries.
It was his cooperation with the investigative reporting coalition called European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) that led to the “Football Leaks” revelations in many media outlets in 2016 and again in 2018 about match-fixing, doping, fraud and other forms of large-scale corruption in the soccer world.
The authorities in several countries have begun investigations based on these public interest revelations. They include France, which is conducting investigations into tax fraud and money laundering. Pinto is currently cooperating with National Finance Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) in France and with the Swiss judicial authorities.
Although Pinto has announced his readiness to “begin cooperating with several prosecutors in Europe,” he is currently under house arrest in Budapest pending a hearing within 60 days to rule on Portugal’s extradition request. If approved, his extradition could not only lead to his conviction but could also obstruct the investigations in France, Switzerland and other countries.
“Rui Pinto is the source of the revelations published by the media outlets that are part of the EIC network,” RSF said. “There is clearly a public interest in this information, which is of vital importance. It is essential that he should be protected and should be able to continue cooperating with judicial authorities. We ask the Hungarian authorities to reject the extradition request and we ask the Portuguese authorities to drop all proceedings against him. We also urge the French and Swiss authorities to give him their support.”
The European Union is currently discussing a directive on the protection of whistleblowers for which RSF made many proposals. A series of cases in recent years have highlighted the importance of greater protection for whistleblowers at the European level.