Former Barcelona star Ronaldinho has spoken about his arrest in Paraguay: “I never imagined that something like this could happen to me.”
The former Brazil international and his brother Roberto de Assis, who is also his business manager, were jailed on 5 March for using fake passports, as reported by Marca.
33 days later, it was confirmed that, following the $1.6m bail money being deposited, the pair left the jail and are now both under house arrest in a hotel in Asuncion – the capital of Paraguay.
“I never imagined that something like this could happen to me, it was a big blow,” said the former Barça player, as cited by Marca. “I came to Paraguay to launch an online casino and a book. Everything we do is under the contracts that are managed by my brother.
“We were absolutely surprised to learn that the documents we had were not legal. From that moment on, our intention was always to collaborate with the courts to clarify the facts.
“I always have my faith, I always pray for things to go well and hopefully soon all this will come to an end. All my life I have tried to reach the highest professional level and bring joy to people with my football.
“My time in prison? They have welcomed me with kindness: playing football, signing autographs and photos…that is part of my life.”
As reported by Marca via Reuters last month, the Paraguayan law authorities are investigating the brothers for possible money laundering after being found to have used fake Paraguayan passports.
It is said that investigators will begin reviewing files and messages on the phones of both while their appeal for release ahead of trial has been rejected, while the investigation is now said to be entering a new stage.
Prosecutor Osmar Legal, who is leading the case, has explained that he is investigating links between the brothers and businesswoman Dalia Lopez, who arranged their trip to Paraguay and who met them on arrival at the airport in the capital of Asuncion before they were detained.
“She could be involved in a money laundering scheme and that means we have to investigate all the other people that were related to that kind of crime, including Ronaldinho,” Legal is cited as saying by Reuters. “That is why we strictly maintain that he be kept in jail.”
“Our principal hypothesis is that they produced false documents, that they used those documents (to enter Paraguay) and that they were eventually going to be used for some commercial means or investments that were not legal.”
As reported by Marca, the former football superstar was arrested earlier this month in the country when he and his brother attempted to enter using falsified Paraguayan passports.
The fake passport shows the former star’s correct name, birthplace, and birthdate, but it falsely prints that he is a naturalised citizen of Paraguay.
A court decision on Saturday then kept the two Brazilians in preventive detention while an investigation into the incident was ongoing ahead of a trial.
His trip to the South American nation was allegedly to promote the charity “La Fundación Angelical,” which provides medical assistance to low-income children, while he was was also going to present his book Genio de la vida (Genius of life).
Last summer, as Diario AS outlined, the former forward had 57 properties seized and owes more than €2m to the Brazilian state over unpaid taxes and fines, while his Brazilian and Spanish passports were confiscated.
Local media outlet Folha de Sao Paulo is cited as describing how Ronaldinho was fined was fined €2.2m for illegally building a pier at his lake house in the city of Porto Alegre.
However, alongside this environmental fine there is a further €1.8m fine in other debts, such as council taxes, which are being pursued by creditors.
The report adds that the former footballer’s debts are accumulating and there is also a new added demand that is being processed by the Office of the National Attorney General of Brazil for €184k.