Rui Pinto, the computer whiz who obtained documents that formed the basis of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ Luanda Leaks investigation, has been released from custody, pending trial.
Pinto, 32, had been held in police-owned housing in Portugal without access to the Internet since earlier this year awaiting trial for computer sabotage, attempted extortion, and other offenses. As part of his release, Pinto must regularly report to authorities. His trial begins later this year.
One of Pinto’s lawyers, William Bourdon, welcomed his client’s release, likening him to the American whistleblower Edward Snowden who leaked classified National Security Agency information.
Bourdon said it was “public recognition that Rui Pinto is the Edward Snowden of international corruption and [he] must be recognized as one of the greatest whistleblowers of the beginning of this century.”
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Pinto, who was previously held in a Lisbon jail for more than a year after his arrest in Hungary in 2019, is now part of Portugal’s witness protection program.
Bourdon said the “next step” will be a request for Pinto’s acquittal.
Pinto obtained more than 715,000 documents related to the business activities of Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos and shared them with the Paris-based advocacy group, the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF). Bourdon is the chair of PPLAAF.
PPLAAF shared the files with ICIJ, which assembled a team of journalists from 20 countries. Reporters spent eight months interpreting the documents through external records, expert sources, and hundreds of interviews from Mauritius to Malta to a shanty town on Luanda’s coast.
The Luanda Leaks investigation revealed in detail how dos Santos, enabled by a phalanx of Western advisors, extracted a fortune from Angola through government deals signed while her father was in power. Dos Santos denies any wrongdoing and says that her father’s 38-year rule of oil and diamond-rich Angola did not unduly help her business empire.
Thanks to his actions, many investigations have been and will be initiated, revealing huge financial scandals that cripple our democracies. – William Bourdon
Following ICIJ’s Luanda Leaks investigation, Angolan authorities charged Isabel dos Santos with embezzling millions from the African country. Dos Santos denies the allegations.
Previously, Pinto provided documents to journalists who published exposés in a series known as Football Leaks that revealed tax dodging by soccer players. The investigation spurred tax probes and the criminal prosecution of top soccer players in Europe.
Pinto’s release comes after two Portuguese enforcement agencies asked the judge for his release from custody. The agencies, known by their acronyms DCIAP and PJ, told the judge that Pinto is collaborating. Pinto “has shown total and spontaneous availability to find the truth,” according to Albano Pinto, director of the Central Department of Criminal Investigation and Prosecution and no relation to Rui Pinto.
An international coalition of supporters, including Pinto’s lawyers and soccer fans, have called for Pinto’s release, arguing that he should be protected as a whistleblower whose work helped expose criminal schemes and served the public interest.
“Thanks to his actions, many investigations have been and will be initiated, revealing huge financial scandals that cripple our democracies,” Bourdon said.