Monday

9th Dec 2019

MEP blasts Portugal over football whistleblower

  • Football Leaks has exposed massive tax evasion (Photo: bildungsr0man)

Rui Pedro Goncalves Pinto, a 30-year old whistleblower who exposed widespread corruption in top European football clubs, has been sitting in pre-trail detention in Portugal for almost three months.

On Friday (14 June), Ana Gomes, a Portuguese socialist MEP, told this website that his incarceration is a miscarriage of justice, in a country that is football crazy.

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  • 'Pinto is a true whistleblower, he needs protection not prosecution, said Ana Gomes MEP (Photo: europarl.eruopa.eu)

"In Portugal, football is the opium of the people. Football corrupts everything and everybody," she said, citing a pair of high level judges who themselves are on trial for corruption.

But the case of Pinto, whose Football Leaks helped prosecute some of the biggest stars like Cristiano Ronaldo in Spain, has riled Gomes.

The leaks spans some 1.9 terabytes of information and a total of 18.6m documents.

Over 60 journalists from a dozen countries are pouring through the information, leading to a host of tax-evasion convictions for top football stars.

It found, for instance, that Ronaldo had diverted €63.5m into a tax haven of the British Virgin Islands at the end of 2014. The move hid away some €35m from the public coffers.

Pinto, who is Portuguese, faces 10 years in jail.

"He is a true whistleblower, he needs protection not prosecution," said Gomes.

The MEP had helped draft the EU's fourth anti-money laundering directive, now in force, which is supposed to compel EU states to protect anyone that reports money laundering crimes.

Gomes pointed out that authorities from Belgium, France and the Netherlands had also all sought out Pinto for his help in cracking down on other suspects.

In Portugal, the opposite occurred, she said.

"The criminals in the [football] industry want to punish him, to silence him, to destroy him, this is to break him psychologically," she said.

Pinto was detained in Hungary, where he had been living, on charges of cyber crime and extortion and then extradited to Portugal.

Although leaving her post as an MEP, Gomes says she intends to formally seek out the European Parliament to pile on the pressure on Portuguese authorities for his release.

EU on path towards whistleblower protection

EU lawmakers and member states have struck a political deal on the first-ever EU-wide directive on whistleblower protection - following years of big tax-evasion revelations and the laundering of dirty money in European banks.

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