Football icon arrested over fake passport
Soccer star Ronaldinho was arrested Friday night in a hotel in Paraguay's capital after authorities said he entered the country with falsified documents.
The 39-year-old Brazilian and his brother, Roberto Assis, were taken to a police station in Asuncion shortly before 10pm local time, Paraguay's prosecutors office said in a statement.
Ronaldinho's lawyer Sergio Queiroz confirmed the arrest to The Associated Press and said his legal team in Paraguay has filed an injunction to release the former footballer and his brother.
Shortly before the arrests, Queiroz told AP the 2002 World Cup winner and former Barcelona star was preparing to take a flight back to Rio de Janeiro, where he lives.
Ronaldinho and Assis testified for six hours earlier about the false Paraguayan documents found in their possession on Wednesday. The Brazilians said they had come to Asuncion for business reasons.
The former footballer and his brother said the documents were offered as a gift by a Brazilian businessmen, Wilmondes Sousa Liria, who has already been jailed.
Ronaldinho's lawyer had earlier denied that he and his brother had used fake passports to enter Paraguay.
"We have proceeded to charge several people," Prosecutor Federico Delfino told the press.
"Ronaldinho and his brother Roberto contributed relevant information to the investigation," and were then removed from the case.
The brothers were acting in "good faith" in receiving the falsified Paraguayan documents, he said.
"The information that they provided is very useful in disrupting a criminal organisation dedicated to the production of false documents," Delfino said.
Brazilian authorities withdrew Ronaldinho's passport in November 2018 after he failed to pay a $2.5 million fine for environmental damage incurred during the building of a property in Porto Alegre, in southern Brazil.
Ronaldinho had been invited to the Paraguayan capital by a foundation for needy children, and to promote his new book.
The 39-year-old and his brother went to the prosecutor's office in the morning alongside Paraguayan lawyer Adolfo Marin.
"They decided voluntarily to stay and submit themselves to the public prosecutor's investigations," Marin said.
Marin said Ronaldinho had told the public prosecutor that the documents in question were given to him a month ago in Brazil.
Former two-time world player of the year Ronaldinho and his brother were detained on Wednesday at their hotel.
Their fake documents were detected upon arrival at the Asuncion international airport, according to Delfino.
The former Barcelona, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain forward and his brother travelled using "doctored Paraguayan passports and fake identity cards," Delfino said.
However, Marin insisted that Ronaldinho had travelled with his own documents and was not subject to travel restrictions.
Marin added that the two Brazilians faced no restrictions on their movements in Asuncion.
Interior minister Euclides Acevedo earlier said Ronaldinho's celebrity would not spare him.
"As an authority, we couldn't ignore this irregularity," he said, adding that those who allowed Ronaldinho into the country would also be investigated.