The Apito Dourado (Golden Whistle) affair is a sports corruption scandal in Portuguese football that first arose in 2004. Portuguese Judiciary Police (Polícia Judiciária) investigators named several football personalities as suspects (arguidos) of corrupting or attempting to corrupt referees, including Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, chairman of FC Porto, and the former Boavista F.C. chairman and Portuguese League for Professional Football President Valentim Loureiro. Although less notorious, a major part of the affair involved lower division referees and clubs, namely UD Sousense and Gondomar S.C., and club officials.
In December 2006, Pinto da Costa's former partner Carolina Salgado published the book Eu, Carolina ("Me, Carolina"), in which she made serious accusations against him. Pinto da Costa called these accusations "absurd" and said he would address them in court. Salgado's book caused the two cases in which Pinto da Costa was involved, which had already been dismissed, to be re-opened.
In March 2008, Porto's Tribunal de Instrução Criminal decided that one of these cases, concerning a match between FC Porto and Beira-Mar where Pinto da Costa allegedly delivered an envelope containing 2,500 euros to the referee, would proceed to trial. The other major case involving FC Porto and Pinto da Costa, regarding a match between FC Porto and Estrela da Amadora, where FC Porto allegedly offered prostitutes to the match referees, was dismissed for the second time in June 2008 and the main accusation witness, Salgado, accused of perjury.
In July 2008, Valentim Loureiro was found guilty of abuse of power but not guilty of corruption. He was sentenced to three years, two months of suspended jail time.
In 2008 the Portuguese League Disciplinary Committee, which had opened a parallel non-criminal proceeding called Apito Final (Final Whistle), sentenced Pinto da Costa to a two-year suspension and FC Porto was docked 6 points (later returned in 2017) in the league for attempted bribery; Boavista FC was sentenced to relegation for bribery and referee coercion; União de Leiria lost three points and its chairman, João Bartolomeu, was sentenced to a one-year suspension.
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On 20 April 2004, the Apito Dourado operation was triggered, leading to the arrest of 16 people, including club officials and referees. Among them were the then Portuguese League for Professional Football President and Mayor of Gondomar, Valentim Loureiro, the then Chairman of the Refereeing Board, José António Pinto de Sousa, and the then chairman of Gondomar S.C., José Luís Oliveira.
On 2 December, the Judiciary Police was supposed to conduct a search at Pinto da Costa's home, but the Chairman of FC Porto had allegedly been previously informed by a source in the Judiciary Police, clearing the site beforehand. On the next day, Pinto da Costa presented himself willingly in the Court of Gondomar for questioning, and was released on a 200,000 euro bail.
On 20 April 2005, the "fruit affair", named as such because of the "fruit" (a codeword for prostitutes) which was used in tapped phone calls, involving FC Porto's chairman Pinto da Costa offering prostitutes to referee Jacinto Paixão before the match between FC Porto and Estrela da Amadora, was dropped.
In January 2006, the Apito Dourado affair proceeded in Gondomar, and the public prosecution filed charges against 27 people, including Valentim Loureiro, José Oliveira and Pinto de Sousa.
By December, Carolina Salgado, former partner of Pinto da Costa, published the book Eu, Carolina ("Me, Carolina"), in which she revealed new data about the case, mainly sports corruption situations, tax fraud, breach of judicial secrecy, assaults, perjury and obstruction to justice. This caused the court to reopen several court cases.
The court cases related to the FC Porto - Estrela da Amadora and Beira-Mar - FC Porto were reopened in early 2007. The first match involved FC Porto allegedly offering prostitutes to Jacinto Paixão (the referee); the second match involved Pinto da Costa allegedly delivering Augusto Duarte (the referee) an envelope containing 2,500 euro in order for him to benefit FC Porto. The affair became known as the "envelope affair".
In March 2007, the judiciary team responsible for the Apito Dourado affair announced that 56 inquiries were underway. In July, judge Maria José Morgado revealed that 20 charges were produced.
In March 2008, FC Porto was indicted for the corruption cases in the matches against Beira-Mar and Estrela da Amadora. For the same reason, Nacional and Boavista were also indicted for bribering the referees of the matches against Benfica and Marítimo, and the match against Estrela da Amadora, respectively.
In March, the public prosecution asked for the conviction of Pinto da Costa, António Araújo and Augusto Duarte regarding the FC Porto - Beira-Mar match.
Criminal court decisions
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In June 2007, 13 of the 24 suspects in the Gondomar part of the affair, mainly related to lower division football, were convicted of charges comprising corruption, influence peddling and abuse of power. Valentim Loureiro was sentenced to three years, two months of suspended penalty for abuse of power, and lost his position of mayor of Gondomar. José Luís Oliveira, chairman of Gondomar SC and vice-chairman of the city of Gondomar was found guilty of 25 crimes of abuse of power and 10 crimes of corruption, and was sentenced to three years of suspended penalty. Pinto de Sousa was found guilty of 25 crimes of abuse of power and convicted to three years of suspended penalty.
João Macedo, António Eustáquio, Jorge Saramago (all three of them referees) were sentenced to pay a fine. The court considered proven that all three of them had received gold objects but that did not mean that the referees had breached the rules of the game of football association. It also stated that it was impossible to prove in which situation of a match the referee was acting intentionally in case of error.
Barbosa da Cunha, João Soares Mesquita, Ricardo Pinto, Carlos Carvalho, Valente Mendes, José Manuel Rodrigues, Sérgio Sedas, José Agostinho Silva and Leonel Viana were all acquitted by the Gondomar court.
On 3 April 2009, Pinto da Costa was acquitted on all criminal charges related to the Beira-Mar-FC Porto match of the 2003-04 season.
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In 2007, the Portuguese League of Football started a non-criminal process calling it Apito Final (Final Whistle). On 9 May 2008, Boavista were relegated to the second-tier Liga de Honra for bribery and referee coercion and FC Porto were docked six points for attempted bribery. This caused UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body to ban FC Porto from the 2008–09 UEFA Champions League, but this decision was later annulled by UEFA's Appeals Body, meaning FC Porto was admitted to the competition. The Portuguese League has also sentenced Pinto da Costa to a two-year suspension; João Loureiro, Boavista's chairman and Valentim Loureiro's son, to a four-year suspension; and João Bartolomeu, União de Leiria chairman, to a one-year suspension. Five referees have also been suspended. All the clubs, chairmen, and referees punished have filed appeals, except for FC Porto, whose punishment did not prevent them from winning the Portuguese League title.
On May 2011, the Central Administrative Court of the South of Portugal ruled that the decision of taking six points from FC Porto's global classification in the 2007–08 season, as well as the suspension of FC Porto's President, Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa for two years, both confirmed in 2008 on a controversial meeting made by the Justice Council of the Portuguese Football Federation, were to be ruled as "inexistent", due to the fact that those decisions were taken by a small number of the remaining counselors, after the meeting had been declared finished by the Council's President, and acting behind the President's and the Vice-President's back, as they were absent by then. The Portuguese Football Federation has announced it would appeal from this decision to the Administrative Supreme Court.
Pinto da Costa was acquitted of corruption in relation to the match between FC Porto and Estrela da Amadora 2003–04 on 23 September 2014. The Justice Council (FPF) president acquitted the FC Porto president of "the practice of infringement disciplinary very serious corruption (...) in the form of trial.".
Also Jacinto Paixão, at the date first category referee, was acquitted of the practice of "very serious disciplinary infraction of corruption of the refereeing team", along with the remaining technical team: José Carlos Gladim Chilrito and Manuel António Candeias Square.
The civil court considered the wiretaps as illegal in this process. Therefore, the Disciplinary Commission of the League, now the professional section of the Disciplinary Council of the Portuguese Football Federation, had to remove the wiretaps as evidence, stating "unproven" charges.
Several conversations between suspects were recorded during the Apito Dourado investigation, and many of them show talks about referee nominations and performances and alleged briberies. However, these wiretaps were not considered legitimate evidence by the courts, since they were recorded without the necessary judicial authorization. Nevertheless, after the acquittal decisions, several of them were released on YouTube and immediately went viral. Some of the most notorious ones include:
- A conversation hours before the FC Porto-Estrela da Amadora match, which took place on 24 January 2004, between FC Porto's chairman, Pinto da Costa, and football agent António Araújo, where Araújo asks for Pinto da Costa authorization to send "fruit to sleep with" (an alleged codeword for prostitutes) to JP (alleged codename for Jacinto Paixão, the match referee). Pinto da Costa states in that conversation that "fruit" has already been sent. Some years after, a video recording emerged that showed a confession by Jacinto Paixão, where he confesses to the usual practice of accepting prostitutes and paid trips to either benefit FC Porto (against Académica or prejudice Benfica (against Moreirense). Jacinto Paixão states in the video that he recorded such confession in case something should happen to him or his family.
- Conversations between Pinto da Costa, António Araújo and Augusto Duarte (a referee), where the three arrange a meeting at Pinto da Costa's house. This took place two days before Augusto Duarte was refereeing the match between FC Porto and Beira-Mar. Pinto da Costa stated that this visit was due to the fact that the referee Augusto Duarte was seeking family advice from him. That the meeting had taken place was proven in court; however, the motive for it was not clear, so the charge was dismissed.
- A conversation between Belenenses president, Sequeira Nunes, and Pinto de Sousa, chairman of the Refereeing Board, which took place on 24 March 2004, where the former denounces to the latter that Nacional's president, Rui Alves, is offering prostitutes to Nacional's matches' referees in order to benefit Nacional. A month prior to that conversation, Rui Alves complains to António Araújo that Nacional has not won a match refereed by Augusto Duarte for a long time. Araújo then asks for Rui Alve's permission to "work" the referee in order to benefit Nacional against Benfica. Three days later, Araújo phones Alves to inform him that everything was in place. Nacional won the match against Benfica by 3-2.
The Apito Dourado process was a major event in Portuguese football and made international headlines at the time. Pinto da Costa, the most notorious suspect, was not convicted by the criminal court system, although being convicted by the Portuguese League Disciplinary Committee to a two-year ban. FC Porto was convicted by the League's Disciplinary Committee to a six-point loss.
Despite no heavy convictions of penalties, the scandal seriously damaged Portuguese football's and FC Porto's reputation. Santiago Segurola, Marca's assistant director stated in 2008 that "It is terrible what is happening to football (...). In the last few years proven corruption cases have emerged from Italy and Portugal. (...). There are people who want to win so much that they are willing to break the rules in the most obscene ways. One of the things that surprises the most is that they (the teams involved) are always the same: Juventus, Porto...".
The Apito Dourado scandal not only hit Portuguese football but also the whole Portuguese criminal procedure system. One of the big controversies was the fact that prosecutors had "no doubts" about the Judiciary Police tipping Pinto da Costa to clear his office hours before the conduction of a search. However, since the source of the leak was unable to be identified, the accusation was dismissed. The court decision which convicted lower division referees to fines has been subject of controversies. One of them is the justification it gave for not considering golden object offers to referees as relevant evidence. A wide debate has also been sparked between the right to privacy (invoked in this case as part of a claim that the unauthorized wiretaps were unusable evidence) and the demand for a more severe justice, regardless of the privacy rights of crime suspects.
The codewords used in the wiretaps have since become common Portuguese football jargon. Expressions such as "fruta para dormir" ("fruit to sleep with", an alleged codeword for prostitutes), "dark coffee" and "latte" (referring to the skin tone of the prostitutes), "rebuçado" (literally translated as "candy") being used by both supporters and club officials to mock and attack clubs related to the Apito Dourado wiretaps, such as FC Porto, Boavista FC, CD Nacional and Gondomar SC.
CMTV started a series about Apito Dourado in 2013, regarding the 10th year anniversary of the Apito Dourado scandal, by airing the already known wiretaps as well as releasing previously unknown ones.
- Police raid HQ of European champions Porto, ABC (Source: AFP-Agence France-Presse), December 3, 2004, accessed December 2006
- Portugal football bosses arrested, BBC News, 20 April 2004, accessed December 2006
- Pinto da Costa não comenta acusações Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., TSF Online, 12 December 2006, accessed June 207 (in Portuguese)
- Carolina Salgado testemunha da Judiciária, Correio da Manhã, 12 December 2006, accessed December 2006 (pt icon)
- Soccer-Porto president to stand trial for alleged bribery, Reuters, 25 March 2008, accessed July 2008
- Pinto da Costa não vai a julgamento e Carolina Salgado acusada de falsas declarações Archived September 22, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Sol, 30 June 2008, accessed July 2008 (in Portuguese)
- Valentim condenado a três anos e dois meses de prisão com pena suspensa por abuso de poder, TSF Online, 18 July 2008, accessed July 2008 (in Portuguese)
- Justiça desportiva iliba Pinto da Costa no caso Apito Final Jornal de Negócios (in Portuguese)
- http://pt.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=por/news/newsid=693895.html, Disciplinary Committee convictions (in Portuguese)
- YouTube volta a revelar 'segredos' do futebol Correio da Manhã (in Portuguese)
- Porto not admitted to Champions League Archived September 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine., UEFA.com, 4 June 2008, accessed July 2008
- Porto admission confirmed Archived September 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine., UEFA.com, 16 June 2008, accessed July 2008
- Apito Final: Boavista punido com descida de divisão, FC Porto com perda de seis pontos Archived June 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine., Público, 9 May 2008, accessed July 2008 (in Portuguese)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx6Xz5rRuGY, Pinto da Costa and António Araújo wiretap (in Portuguese)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kxkbrt1oR_o, Jacinto Paixão's confession (in Portuguese)
- "FC Porto ofereceu-nos raparigas" [FC Porto offered us girls]. SAPO (in Portuguese). 12 May 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtqzgmhAOIk, Augusto Duarte, António Araújo and Pinto da Costa wiretap (in Portuguese)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-y7swlgm9lA, António Araújo, Rui Alves, Sequeira Nunes and Pinto de Sousa wiretap (in Portuguese)
- http://www.marca.com/charlas/santiagosegurola/12052008.html, Santiago Segurola, penultimate answer to the interview (in Spanish)
- http://www.cmjornal.xl.pt/detalhe/noticias/exclusivo-cm/pinto-da-costa-avisado: July 15th 2007, Pinto da Costa knew about searches (in Portuguese)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMkhEanpnps&list=PLfFPZiCPBl6e6JL6xhR7_PhXdxRk3-QHF, CMTV, 10 years of the Golden Whistle (in Portuguese)
- Apito Dourado news at Público (archived) (in Portuguese)