Soccer Leaker Rui Pinto Named as Luanda Leaks Whistleblower

Rui Pinto, center, is surrounded by police officers in Budapest, Hungary in 2019, as he awaited a decision on his extradition to Portugal for his role in releasing the "Football Leaks" documents.

Rui Pinto, center, is surrounded by police officers in Budapest, Hungary in 2019, as he awaited a decision on his extradition to Portugal for his role in releasing the "Football Leaks" documents. (AP Photo/Pablo Gorondi, File)

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January 27, 2020

A Portuguese whistleblower known for exposing financial wrongdoing in the global soccer industry has now come forward as the source of the trove of documents that revealed the business dealings of Africa’s richest woman. 

The resulting global investigation — led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and dubbed the Luanda Leaks — shows how Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the former Angolan president, made hundreds of millions of dollars, aided in part by her father’s 38-year rule of Angola and favorable deals made with the government while he was in power. The more than 715,000 documents, shared with FRONTLINE for the film, The Luanda Leaks, and 35 other news organizations, show how dos Santos and her husband set up a network of companies in tax and secrecy jurisdictions for their growing wealth.

After publication of numerous stories last week, Angolan authorities announced they would indict dos Santos on several charges, including money laundering, influence peddling and forgery. Dos Santos has denied any wrongdoing, and said she is being politically persecuted by the new Angolan government. She and her husband, Sindika Dokolo say they are the victims of a computer hack.

The documents were initially provided to the ICIJ by the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF). Today, the head of PPLAAF, William Bourdon, said in a statement that the source who gave the documents to his Paris-based group was Rui Pinto, an alleged computer hacker and the creator of the whistleblower website called Football Leaks.

In 2015, Pinto published hundreds of internal documents on the soccer industry, including player contracts and financial records. It led to the criminal tax prosecutions of several top players. Pinto was later arrested; he is currently in jail awaiting trial in Portugal in connection with those leaks.

In Monday’s statement, Bourdon, who also represents Pinto, said: “PPLAAF is pleased that once again a whistleblower is revealing to the world actions that go against international public interest.

“Like in the case of the Football Leaks, these revelations should allow for new investigations to be launched and thus help in the fight against impunity for financial crimes in Angola and in the world.”

Bourdon said Pinto wanted to expose activities that were illegal or contrary to the public interest. He added that the disclosure of the documents to PPLAAF was not politically motivated.

ICIJ director Gerard Ryle said: “The leaking of this material to PPLAAF, and in turn to ICIJ’s media partners, provided indisputable evidence of unnecessary misery that was inflicted on the ordinary people of Angola, and the role of enablers who got rich by helping.

“The documents came from a concerned citizen — someone doing the right thing by the public.”

The fallout from the Luanda Leaks has been swift. After the criminal charges against dos Santos were announced, EuroBic, the Lisbon bank where dos Santos is a primary shareholder, announced that she would sell her stake in the company. The same day, Portuguese media reported the death of EuroBic banker Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha, in an apparent suicide.

In a statement this week, dos Santos said she has “always operated within the law” and acted with the approval of lawyers, banks, auditors and regulators. “I am ready to fight through the international courts to defend my good name,” she said.

Bourdon, a veteran French human rights lawyer who has represented others who have leaked sensitive documents, including Edward Snowden and Wikileak’s Julian Assange, pledged to defend Pinto in the event of any future legal action over the Luanda Leaks. 

—Douglas Dalby and Sydney Freedberg from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists contributed reporting.

Sarah Childress

Sarah Childress, Series Senior Editor, FRONTLINE



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