Ronaldinho Arrested in Paraguay over Altered Passport

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2020

TOPSHOT - Brazilian retired football player Ronaldinho leaves Asuncion's Prosecution after declaring about his irregular entry to the country, in Asuncion, Paraguay, on March 5, 2020. - Former Brazilian football star Ronaldinho and his brother have been detained in Paraguay after allegedly using fake passports to enter the South American country, authorities said Wednesday. (Photo by NORBERTO DUARTE / AFP) (Photo by NORBERTO DUARTE/AFP via Getty Images)
NORBERTO DUARTE/Getty Images

Former World Player of the Year Ronaldinho was arrested in Paraguay on Friday, along with his brother Roberto Assis, after using false documents to enter the country.

Ronaldinho, who enjoyed a glittering club and international career with Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, AC Milan and Brazil, was held at a police station in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion, according to the country's prosecutors office.

The arrest was confirmed by Ronaldinho's lawyer Sergio Queiroz, who told the Associated Press (h/t the Guardian) an injunction has been filed to try to expedite a release.

Meanwhile, the man who gave Ronaldinho and his brother false papers, Wilmondes Sousa Liria, has been sent to jail, per the same report.

Paraguayan officials had recommended Ronaldinho and his brother not be charged after they allegedly used altered passports in the country on Wednesday.

Per Reuters (via ESPN), Paraguayan prosecutor Federico Delfino said earlier on Friday: "We are looking for an alternative way out of this that doesn't result in a formal accusation and that recognises that these people were, we can say, taken by surprise."

If Delfino's recommendation had been accepted, it may have led to the brothers being issued an alternative punishment, such as a fine donated to a local charity.

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Ronaldinho and Assis, who is also his business manager, flew from Sao Paulo to Asuncion, where they were allegedly handed Paraguayan documents "as soon as they got off the plane," per Reuters.

According to Delfino, the pair told authorities the passports—which had numbers corresponding to other peoplewere a gift.

They spent Thursday cooperating with Paraguayan police investigating the matter, having recognised they had unknowingly committed a crime.

"They decided voluntarily to stay and submit themselves to the public prosecutor's investigations. He [Ronaldinho] didn't need to use any other document than his own," Ronaldinho's legal representative, Adolfo Marin, said.

Citizens of the Mercosur trading bloc in South America, which includes Brazil and Paraguay, do not need passports to travel between the countries, although they still require a form of valid identification.

Ronaldinho's Brazilian passport was confiscated in 2015 after he illegally built a pier at his lake house in Porto Alegre. According to Reuters, it was returned to him in September last year after he paid a $2 million fine.

The 39-year-old won the FIFA World Cup with the Selecao in 2002 and lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy with Barca in 2006.