Football Leaks: Former journalist defends public interest in site revelations

The information about contracts disclosed on the website ‘Football Leaks’ had “obvious public interest” and revealed “matter that was hidden” from public opinion, said today the ex-journalist of the daily Record António Varela, heard at the 37th session of the trial.

The newspaper’s object of activity is to reveal new material, to give news, and there was a lot of material there that was hidden from public opinion and that was obviously of interest. I will not fail to say that inside the newspaper there were some doubts as to whether this information should be echoed, but we said that we should move forward, because if it weren’t for us, another newspaper would move forward”, explained the former sports journalist.

In today’s hearing at the ongoing trial at the Central Court of Criminal Instruction, in Lisbon, the current communication director of the Olympic Committee of Portugal recalled the origins of the website created by Rui Pinto, in September 2015, and the contact established by who was behind the electronic platform, without failing to highlight a doubt for which he never got clarification.

In late 2015, I got an interview with ‘Football Leaks’, but not all questions were answered. I was wondering if ‘Football Leaks’ was just one person or several, but that question wasn’t answered.”, he noted, stressing: “My initial concern was to find out who was behind ‘Football Leaks’. At a certain point I realized that there would be no answer”.

Assuring that he never received any financial compensation from ‘Football Leaks’, nor did he know how the platform had access to the documents, António Varela was “absolutely surprised” with the magnitude of the information then disclosed on the site, by posting a story “ very sensitive” in the football field. Among the entities targeted, the witness highlighted “in-depth publications” about the Doyen investment fund.

These were things that, not being illegal, were very strange”, began by referring, pointing the focus to the “complex” information that was at stake in the investment fund that was led by Nélio Lucas.

It was clear to everyone that there were fiscal crimes. Soon the ‘Football Leaks’ fulfilled the role for which it was created. There were people who were having a behavior they weren’t supposed to have”, he said.

However, António Varela also acknowledged that the newspaper’s attitude began to change with the passage of time, becoming more “deferred”, especially since the moment when Doyen started to rely on the services of a communication agency.

He started to do his job well, speaking in the newspaper, and the direction began to have doubts about the material, he even began to be afraid. I’m not going to say I’m afraid of Doyen, but of all the people who were connected to those contracts. One of the things that caused the newspaper to crash was a contract story about player Luka Jovic. And on the part of ‘Football Leaks’ there started to be a greater distance as well”, described.

Continuously, António Varela used the experience of nearly three decades in that sports daily to detail the consequences that were beginning to be feared in the newspaper.

Sports newspapers in Portugal have a history of close relationships with the sources of the big clubs. We were echoing the matter that called into question the conduct of the club, which meant starting to ‘dry up’ the sources within the clubs. If at the beginning the surprise effect was unavoidable, as time went by, the interest I had and the damage it could cause in the relationship with the sources began to be more weighted., synthesized.

Rui Pinto, 32, is responsible for a total of 90 crimes: 68 of improper access, 14 of violation of correspondence, six of illegitimate access, targeting entities such as Sporting, Doyen, the law firm PLMJ, the Portuguese Federation of Football (FPF) and the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), and also for computer sabotage to Sporting’s SAD and extortion, as attempted. This last crime concerns Doyen and it was also what led to the prosecution of lawyer Aníbal Pinto.

The creator of Football Leaks has been free since August 7, “due to his collaboration” with the Judiciary Police (PJ) and his “critical sense”, but he is, for security reasons, included in the program for the protection of witnesses in an undisclosed location and under police protection.



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