Portuguese hacker is 'whistleblower' behind Luanda Leaks - lawyers

The hacker, Rui Pinto, is already well-known for claiming to be behind 'Football Leaks' - 70 million documents exposing dealings of several football clubs.

In this file photo taken on March 5, 2015 Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos attends an art exhibition in Porto, northern Portugal. Picture: AFP.

LISBON - A Portuguese hacker has taken responsibility for disclosing hundreds of thousands of files revealing how Angolan billionaire and former first daughter Isabel dos Santos built her vast business empire, his lawyers said on Monday.

The hacker, Rui Pinto, is already well-known for claiming to be behind _Football Leaks _- 70 million documents exposing dealings of several football clubs.

Now, Pinto’s lawyers William Bourdon and Francisco Teixeira da Mota revealed their client is also behind the files dubbed the Luanda Leaks, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and released by several news organisations last week.

The 31-year-old already stands accused of 93 crimes by Portuguese prosecutors, related mostly to alleged unauthorised access to data, attempted extortion and violation of correspondence. He is currently awaiting trial in a Lisbon jail. His lawyers have said he acted only in the public interest.

It remains to be seen whether the latest revelation will affect the ongoing case against Pinto. His lawyers have repeatedly defended him as a “whistleblower”.

In a statement sent to Reuters, the lawyers said Pinto handed over a hard drive “containing all data related to the recent revelations concerning Isabel dos Santos’ fortune, her family’s and all the actors that might be involved” to the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa at the end of 2018.

The lawyers said Pinto allowed PPLAAF, which was co-founded by Bourdon himself, to use the data “as they wished”. PPLAAF then shared it with the ICIJ.

“Without the immense Luanda Leaks revelations, made possible thanks to our client, the regulatory, police and judicial authorities would have done nothing,” the lawyers said. “Thanks and only thanks to our client, Portuguese citizens and the world have access to the truth of an extraordinary system of predation and corruption.”

Dos Santos has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. “I always operated within the law and all my commercial transactions have been approved by lawyers, banks, auditors and regulators,” she said in a statement on Thursday.

Several days after the initial Luanda Leaks media reports, Angolan prosecutors named dos Santos and four Portuguese nationals formal suspects over allegations of mismanagement and misappropriation of funds during dos Santos’ time as chairwoman of state oil company Sonangol.

Angola’s state prosecutor released a court document on 31 December last year declaring an asset freeze on dos Santos, her husband Sindika Dokolo, and business associate Mario Leite da Silva’s holdings in Angola.

The document claimed the government had gathered sufficient evidence to prove that the trio diverted $1.1 billion in state funds to private firms in which they held stakes.

Angola’s attorney general Helder Pitta Groz told Portuguese broadcaster RTP on Friday that the Luanda Leaks documents revealed “some operations and connections we weren’t sure were happening, and one or another we didn’t know about”.