Snowden to testify in defence of creator of Football Leaks

FILE PHOTO: Edward Snowden speaks via video link as he takes part in a round table on the protection of whistleblowers at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

LISBON (Reuters) - Fugitive U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden will be one of 45 witnesses testifying in Portugal in defence of Rui Pinto, whose trove of 70 million documents exposed the dealings of European soccer clubs, Pinto's lawyer said on Monday.

Portuguese prosecutors have said the compilation of the Football Leaks data, which from 2016 revealed transfer fees, contracts and information on players' agencies, led to unauthorised access to Portuguese data, attempted extortion and violation of the privacy of correspondence.

Pinto's lawyer Francisco Teixeira da Mota said the trial would start on Friday, but that he did not know whether Snowden, now living in Russia, would testify via video link.

Pinto, 31, acknowledges creating the trove but says there was no crime because he was acting in the public interest.

The data showed how some of the richest and most prominent figures in soccer avoided tax by channelling earnings offshore; provided insight into wealthy Gulf individuals and organisations who have become influential in soccer; and examined the huge sums flowing through some leading clubs and the uneven way authorities have applied the sport's rules.

The documents provided some of the evidence that led to a ban - since overturned - on Manchester City of the English Premier League competing in the European Champions League for alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play rules.

French prosecutors say they have collaborated with Pinto and other countries have expressed their desire to do the same.

Pinto was detained in January 2019. He was freed from house arrest this month and put under witness protection.

William Bourdon, also defending Pinto, has represented Snowden in the past.

"Rui Pinto is the Snowden of international corruption and (he) must be recognised as one of the greatest whistleblowers of the beginning of this century," Bourdon told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Snowden is wanted in the United States for espionage, but says that his leak of secret files in 2013, which revealed vast domestic and international surveillance by the NSA, was in the public interest.

In January, Pinto said he was responsible for disclosing hundreds of thousands of files about alleged financial schemes used by Angolan billionaire and former first daughter Isabel dos Santos to build a vast business empire.

Angola has begun criminal investigations but dos Santos has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Catarina Demony, Editing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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