RONALDINHO’S hopes of an early end to his five-month prison and house arrest hell have been put on hold for at least a fortnight.
The Paraguayan judge who will decide the former Barcelona and AC Milan star’s fate has set a court hearing where he could agree to release the retired footballer and his brother for August 24.
The pair were hoping for a release at the start of this week after it emerged prosecutors probing them over a fake passport scandal were open to letting them fly back to Brazil following the payment of fines.
They will remain at the four-star Palmaroga Hotel in Asuncion where they have been prisoners since April as part of a house arrest agreement until at least the next court date.
It was not clear today whether judge Gustavo Amarilla could allow them to leave Paraguay immediately after the hearing if he rubber-stamps the new prosecution proposal or will keep them in the country for more days or weeks pending his final decision.
Reports at the weekend said Ronaldinho had been offered freedom and an escape from trial in exchange for a £70,000 cash payment following his March arrest for allegedly entering Paraguay with a doctored passport.
Roberto de Assis Moreira was told he could be allowed to board the same plane home with his younger brother if a judge accepted a new prosecution proposal for him based around a two year suspended jail sentence and a £85,000 fine.
Both men would have to plead guilty to a charge of entering the country with falsified passports as part of a so-called deal called a ‘salida process’ in Paraguay, according to reports in the South American country.
Ronaldinho’s five-month forced stay in Paraguay began in March with a month-long spell in prison before he was allowed to move to the Palmoroga Hotel with his brother as part of the house arrest deal.
The 40-year-old revealed in an interview at the end of April with Paraguayan daily ABC Color that the first thing he will do when he recovers his freedom is give his doting mum Miguelina “a big kiss.”
The hearing where Ronaldinho and his older sibling were hoping to learn their fate was initially being talked about for yesterday.
The cash payments the pair will reportedly be asked to pay to secure their release and be able to fly home are being described locally as “reparation of the social damage” their behaviour caused.
ABC Color says Ronaldinho could expect a two-year prison sentence if his lawyers reject the prosecution deal. The final decision on his fate rests with the judge Gustavo Amarilla.
The footballer’s legal team, who have always insisted Ronaldinho was not aware he was breaking any laws, have yet to make any official comment.
Prosecutors are understood to have told the judge, who will also decide the retired soccer star’s brother’s fate, they have no evidence Roberto had any “direct participation” in the “planning part” of obtaining of the falsified passports.
Ronaldinho and his brother were arrested on March 6 after entering Paraguay to launch an online casino and a book with doctored passports falsely showing they were naturalised Paraguayan citizens.
A criminal investigation is ongoing and officials have linked the false passport scandal, which has led to the arrests of more than a dozen people including a Brazilian businessman alleged to have handed them the travel documents, to an attempted money laundering operation.
Ronaldinho, who has been staying at a presidential suite in his hotel , turned 40 in March while he was still in prison and had to make do with a low-key barbecue cooked for him by other inmates.
The fallen soccer star and his brother have consistently claimed they were tricked. Ronaldinho’s Paraguayan lawyer Adolfo Marin has said he had been given his Paraguayan passport as a “gift”, assumed it was an ‘honorary-type’ document of no real value, and gave it to an official without thinking when he reached Paraguay because it was the “first thing he got out of his bag.”
In March the lawyer branded Ronaldinho “stupid”, saying he hadn’t understood he had been given false documents to enter Paraguay.
Ronaldinho’s life has been under the microscope for all the wrong reasons since he won two Fifa World Player of the Year Awards as well as a Ballon d’Or at the peak of his playing career.
He officially retired from football in 2018. The same year he was forced to deny bigamy claims.
He had his Brazilian passport confiscated after he was convicted alongside his brother of building an illegal fishing platform on a lake in a conservation area, but Paraguayan prosecutors confirmed last month they had discovered it had been returned to him and he used it to leave Brazil on a flight from Sao Paulo.
The revelation left a huge question mark over why Ronaldinho did not use the same passport when he entered Paraguay, with his lawyer’s comments about it being the “first thing” he laid his hands on being greeted with a mixture of derision and disbelief.
Last year it was reported Ronaldinho only had £5 in his bank account.
Police raided a Ronaldinho family home to seize assets in a bid to guarantee he paid fines due over the illegal fishing platform. Officers were said last November to have seized three luxury cars and a piece of art from painter Andre Berardo.
Ronaldinho’s brother was sentenced to five years in jail in 2012 in Brazil for money laundering and other financial crimes.
Reports at the time said Roberto de Assis had been accused of lying to Brazilian tax authorities to justify the entry into his homeland of money held in secret accounts in Switzerland.
Early in April Ronaldinho showed he was still smiling despite house arrest and the threat of prison with a live appearance from his hotel room in Paraguay.
He was a surprise guest during an online show by his friends in Brazilian samba band Grupo Revelacao.
He greeted the band with his trademark goofy grin during a video call.
And he also waved with his personalised thumb and little finger waggle, the same gesture he made when Paraguayan judge Gustavo Amarilla told him on April 7 he was being released from jail after approving his house arrest petition.
I always pray so that things turn out okay and God willing this will all end soon.
In his sole interview from the hotel where he is under house arrest, conducted with three journalists from Paraguayan daily ABC Color, Ronaldinho insisted at the end of April: “We were totally stunned when we found out the documents weren’t legal.
“From that moment onwards our intention has been to co-operate with the courts to clarify all this.
“I have my faith.
“I always pray so that things turn out okay and God willing this will all end soon.
“Finding out I was going to prison hit me hard. I never imagined I would be in a situation like this.
“All my life I’ve tried to reach my highest level professionally and bring happiness to people with my football.”
He said the other inmates he spent time with in jail, where he was pictured playing football and footvolley, treated him kindly.
Insisting he was happy to sign autographs and pose for photos with the people he met in prison, he added: “Playing football, signing autographs and having photos taken is part of my life.
“I’d have no reason to stop doing it, especially with people who were experiencing a difficult time the same as me.”
Asked what his plans would be when he was finally freed from his nightmare, Ronaldinho said: “The first thing I will do is give my mum a big kiss.
“She’s been experiencing a difficult time of it since the start of the coronavirus crisis.
“After that I’ll absorb the impact this situation has generated and carry on with faith and strength.”