Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 October 2020

Paraguayan police say former Barcelona star Ronaldinho not receiving preferential treatment in jail

The 2002 World Cup winner was arrested on Friday for attempting to enter Paraguay with a false passport two days earlier

A Paraguayan judge ordered former Barcelona and Brazil forward Ronaldinho to remain in jail after ruling him a flight risk.

The 2002 World Cup winner was arrested on Friday for attempting to enter Paraguay with a false passport two days earlier and spent Friday night in a police cell on the outskirts of the capital Asuncion along with his brother and business manager Roberto Assis.

Legal representative had asked that Ronaldinho and his brother be released and placed under house arrest but that was rejected by the judge, who also dismissed Assis’ claims to have a heart problem.

Judge Clara Ruiz Diaz said their alleged offence was a "serious one against the interests of the Paraguayan state".

Because the pair posed a flight risk they must remain in custody, she added.

Under Paraguayan law, officials now have six months to complete their investigation but a lawyer for the brothers called the judge's decision "irrational" and "arbitrary" and demanded that the judge recuse herself. Ronaldinho's legal team are expected to present an appeal in the coming days.

"He [Ronaldinho] doesn’t understand what’s going on," Tarek Tuma, who represents the brothers, told reporters.

Saturday's courtroom drama came after an astonishing four days that began on Wednesday when the duo attempted to enter Paraguay with doctored passports.

They were detained but a prosecutor who believed they were tricked into taking the fake documents recommended they be released after receiving an alternative punishment such as paying a fine to charity.

A judge, though, rejected that idea late on Friday. Arrest warrants were then issued for both the former AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain player and his brother.

A police official told local media the pair had been placed in a cell with one other inmate. They were given soap, cushions and repellent to protect against mosquitoes.

Although workers at the facility took selfies with the famous detainee, officials said the Brazilians did not receive any preferential treatment.

Paraguayan television showed the two men arriving in court in handcuffs at around noon local time on Saturday.

The brothers were invited to Paraguay by a local casino owner and had arrived on Wednesday to take part in a soccer clinic for children and a book launch.

Although he last played professionally in 2015, Ronaldinho, 39, who also turned out for Brazilian clubs Atletico Mineiro, Flamengo and Fluminense, is still hugely popular with global football fans for his skills and showmanship.

Ronaldinho was the 2004 and 2005 World Player of the Year and reached the prime of his career at Spanish giants Barcelona. He won the World Cup for Brazil in 2002 alongside fellow superstar forwards Ronaldo and Rivaldo.

Brazilian authorities revoked Ronaldinho's passport in late 2018 after he failed to pay a $2.5 million (Dh9.1m) fine for building a pier in a protected lake, Brazilian media reported.

Ronaldinho's net worth is estimated at between £80-100 million (Dh383-479 million) and he is reported to charge around $256,000 for a single promoted Instagram post, where he has more than 50 million followers.

Updated: March 8, 2020 06:43 PM

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