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Trial of Football Leaks creator kicks off in Portugal

* Police guard Lisbon court where trial of Rui Pinto to start

* Portuguese man charged over leak of documents on European clubs

* Football Leaks data showed vast money-flows in sport

LISBON, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Police guarded a Lisbon court behind crowd barriers on Friday before the trial of Rui Pinto, whose Football Leaks website published a huge trove of documents exposing the multi-million dealings of European soccer clubs.

The 31-year-old former history student was to be tried from 9.30 a.m. (0830 GMT) at the Central Criminal Court in the Portuguese capital on 90 charges including unauthorised access to data, violation of correspondence and attempted extortion.

Pinto acknowledges releasing the 70 million documents, but says he was a whistleblower acting in the public interest.

Football Leaks’ data showed how some of the richest and most prominent figures in soccer avoided tax by channelling earnings offshore, and provided insight into wealthy Gulf individuals and organisations who became influential in the sport.

It also examined the huge sums flowing through leading clubs and the uneven way authorities have applied rules.

‘FIGHT CARRIES ON’

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

Pinto was arrested in Hungary in January 2019, though he was later freed from house arrest and is now in witness protection.

“The fight carries on because nearly two years later Portugal is still a haven for big corruption and money laundering,” Pinto wrote on Twitter recently.

The trial is expected to last until December and include testimony from 45 witnesses, including fugitive U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden for the defence.

In January, Pinto said he was also 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 business empire.

Angola has begun criminal investigations but dos Santos has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. (Reporting by Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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