At the end of last week, international soccer phenom Ronaldinho tried to enter Paraguay on a fake passport. The former soccer star from Brazil was busted with his brother and business manager, Roberto Assis, and the two were promptly shipped off to a maximum security prison. Why someone like Ronaldinho would need to use a counterfeit passport, especially when he had used his own, real passport earlier in his journey, is, at the very least, puzzling, but it isn’t the end of the saga for the Ballon d’Or winner. He is reportedly now facing additional criminal charges in the country.
It isn’t exactly clear what is included in the new charges – Paraguay has been fairly tight-lipped on the subject. However, Globoesporte learned from a source close to the subject that “there are indications that other crimes were committed.” The lawyer representing Ronaldinho and his brother, Sergio Queiroz, has also been quiet, according to a report by Reuters.
Ronaldinho and Assis have already admitted that the passports they used were fake, but said they didn’t realize it when they received them. Queiroz explains, “They confessed that they used these false passports. But there was no harm done to the Paraguayan state. Roberto and Ronaldinho did not know that the passports were irregular. And they cooperated fully with authorities.” He added that the brothers’ detention is “arbitrary, abusive and illegal.”
Those claims may be a little exaggerated, as Ronaldinho appears to be in high spirits, even while behind bars. The prison’s warden, Blas Vera, explained to Reuters, “In broad terms, he is doing very well. I see he is in good spirits, just like you see him on television, always smiling.”
The pair have beds, a TV and a fan in their cell, and share a communal bathroom and outdoor patio with other inmates. They also are kept free from eating prison cuisine, since Queiroz reportedly supplies them with food. Vera added that he was ensuring the stay is “as comfortable as possible,” and that Ronaldinho and Assis don’t have to interact with dangerous criminals, who are kept in a different wing.
Ronaldinho was apparently traveling to Paraguay to participate in a couple of public events. He had reportedly been invited by a local casino owner and was to have participated in a youth soccer clinic, as well as a book launch. He and his brother will appear in court today, where their lawyer will try to convince a judge that they are not a flight risk and should be on house arrest until their trial.