The soccer world was shocked several months ago when it was revealed that Ronaldinho, one of the best soccer players to have ever come out of Brazil, had been arrested in Paraguay along with his brother, Roberto de Assis Moreira. Making the issue more perplexing was the reason for his arrest. He had allegedly tried to enter the country on a fake passport, even though he had a legal, valid passport in his possession. The retired Ballon d’Or winner was put in jail and then later released under house arrest. Now, Ronaldinho is a free man once again.
Ronaldinho and his brother were given a suspended sentence of two years by a Paraguayan judge as he approved their release. They are on the hook for $200,000 in fines, but have been allowed to return home to Brazil. According to the attorneys for both, they are relocating to Rio de Janeiro, where they will establish their residency.
In an interview with Paraguayan media outlet ABC Color following his arrest, Ronaldinho asserted, “We were totally surprised to learn that the documents were not legal. Since then, our intention has been to collaborate with the justice system to clarify the facts. From that moment until today, we have explained everything and facilitated everything that has been requested of us. It was a hard blow. I never imagined that I would go through such a situation. All my life I have sought to reach the highest professional level and bring joy to people with my football.”
Ronaldinho had traveled to Paraguay at the request of a casino owner, who asked that he participate in a youth soccer clinic and the inauguration of a casino, as well as to promote his autobiography. Having the soccer phenom’s face tied to anything is always a way to attract publicity; however, the publicity received in this case was most likely not the kind anyone expected. Upon showing their passports as they entered the country, authorities discovered that they were false, and detained Ronaldinho and his brother. They later alleged that they believed the passports to be real before admitting to knowing that they contained erroneous information. Ronaldinho and his brother saw their case expedited through the judicial channels because “they admitted having had official Paraguayan legal documents but of false content and because they litigated in good faith,” according to local prosecutor Marcelo Pecci.
Things could have been much worse for the soccer star, who turned 40 while in Paraguay. The judge could have decided to send him away for up to five years, but opted for the reduced sentence. They spent 32 days in a maximum-security prison before being released on house arrest, and Ronaldinho has now been let off the hook completely – not even a mark in his record in the country. His brother, however, will have a criminal record in Paraguay and will have to remain in Brazil for two years. During that time, he will also have to make trips to visit Brazilian authorities in order to check in.
It still isn’t clear why the alternative passport, which he had been given by a Brazilian businessman, would have been used, as he freely traveled under his own, legitimate document. He had been forced to surrender his passport last year in conjunction with an investigation into alleged environmental crimes, but it was given back to him in September. Shortly after, he used it to travel to Israel, where he played in a soccer game.