For investigative journalism, including the type practiced by The Black Sea, the legality of how data is obtained is secondary to the public interest. Similarly, Rui Pinto is an important witness for French prosecutors. In November last year, investigators at the national financial prosecutors Parquet National Financier (PNF) met with Pinto in Paris. The special unit, which deals with serious economic crimes, is now targeting several football clubs and players for financial impropriety. Pinto expressed his willingness to cooperate in return for his entry into a witness protection program.
The French whistleblower regime, which came into force in December 2016, is aimed at whistleblowers who come from a company or organisation. French law provides protection from retaliation, and the French considered Pinto’s situation dangerous enough to have him brought to France, which it prepared to do so this February.
Pinto’s arrest thwarted their plan. Nevertheless, the French, and prosecutors from other countries, continue to investigate his material. Pinto earlier provided them with twelve million files, about a tenth of what he has in his possession. In mid-February, prosecutors organised a meeting at Eurojust, a cross-border judicial cooperation unit based in The Hague, announcing the plans of nine countries to coordinate in sharing the material delivered by Pinto.
Portugal still insisted on Pinto’s extradition. But Antonio Cluny, Portugal’s top Eurojust representative, failed to reveal a potential conflict of interest. His son, João Lima Cluny, is a lawyer at the Portuguese law firm, Morais Leitão, and works in a team that represents football players and clubs. Should prosecutors evaluate that the Football Leaks data contains potential impropriety, it is possible that clients of this firm could come under suspicion.
In the Ronaldo tax case, there is an ongoing investigation against a colleague of João Lima Cluny at Morais Leitão.
Neither the law firm nor Antonio Cluny consider this a conflict of interest. Pinto, on the other hand, claims this is proof that the “football mafia” has “infiltrated” Portugal’s judiciary.
The allegations made by the Portuguese authorities against Pinto date back to 2015. Using a false name, Pinto had requested money from the managers of Doyen in exchange for not publishing documents about them. The deal never materialised and Pinto did not collect any money for the documents. Today, he explains that this action was the prank of a stupid boy who wanted to test how much Doyen thought the documents were worth. Nevertheless, this is the source of his legal problems in Portugal.
Investigators at Eurojust are worried that the documents are inadmissible as evidence in the Portuguese courts because of the allegations it was illegally obtained. They fear also that if Portugal takes possession of all of the data, their authorities will not make it available to other law enforcement agencies in Europe. They could also destroy the information.
This could also be a problem for the ongoing investigation into Cristiano Ronaldo’s alleged rape of a woman in a Las Vegas hotel in 2009, which was prompted by Der Spiegel’s reports, and which were based on several key documents from the Football Leaks cache. (Ronaldo rejects the accusation). A representative of the US judiciary also traveled to The Hague for the Eurojust meeting in mid-February.
The documents presented to the court in Budapest by Pinto’s defense lawyer also include a letter from a German tax investigation team. At the end of February, the German authorities thanked Pinto in a letter to one of Pinto’s attorneys, and suggested a face-to-face meeting. His interest, wrote the tax investigator, is in dealings within the Bundesliga, or, “more generally, German football clubs, players or consultants”. The investigators told Pinto he did not need to bring any documents to the meeting, as his knowledge was of enough interest to them.
This “strictly confidential meeting” would not occur should Pinto be extradited to Portugal.
Doyen’s representatives and Nelio Lucas were contacted for this article, but did not reply.