Bizarre six-month stay in Paraguay penal system
After nearly six months entangled in the Paraguayan legal system, Ronaldinho is set to be granted his liberty from house arrest on Monday by judges in Asunción. The World Cup winner and his brother, Roberto de Assis, were first jailed in March when they entered the country for a promotional tour with falsified Paraguayan passports and ID. Neither of the brothers have Paraguayan citizenship.
Their lawyer maintains that his clients did not know the documents were falsified, as they were given to them by a local sponsor upon landing. The two had faced up to five years in jail.
“There is no indication that he has any personal characteristics or criminal behaviour that ... would put society at risk,” one of the prosecutors in the case said.
Prosecutors say they believe Ronaldinho was unaware the passports were falsified.
Last year, Brazilian authorities seized Ronaldinho’s passport while investigating him for environmental crimes at his home, but he had the document later that year in September.
Ronaldinho’s lawyer, agreed on a plea deal with the federal Paraguayan courts in early August allowing the de Asis brothers return to their native Brazil with conditional freedom. The ex-Barcelona star and his brother both pled guilty to entering with fake passports and paid a $200,000 fine.
While Roberto agreed to keep a criminal record in Paraguay, Ronaldinho’s will be expunged as a part of the deal. Roberto, who is also his brother’s agent, must also check in with authorities every three months over the next two years in Brazil during which time he will be not allowed to leave his home country.
The trial and every single possible detail of the Brazilian sports legend’s detention spilled into the South America tabloid spotlight just as the sports world began to shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As first reported by the Paraguayan newspaper La Nación, Ronaldinho was taken into custody in the country’s capital, Asunción, on 6 March and shared a cell block with a former president of Paraguay’s football association, who had been jailed for money laundering.
After 32 days in the maximum security jail, where he spent his 40th birthday, Ronaldinho and his brother were transferred to a luxury hotel after being twice denied bail. They were given their own $380-a-night suites in an otherwise empty hotel, and spent the last four months under house arrest, supposedly in quarantine.
South American outlets reported that Ronaldinho often welcomed guests into his room. Hotel staff have also claimed the former Brazil star spent nights dancing and singing karaoke.
The case enveloped Paraguay, and Ronaldinho’s arrest is just one of 18 in an operation that saw the resignation of Paraguay’s top immigration authority and included Dalia López Troche, the footballer’s sponsor in the country, at its center.
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