Ex-Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldinho could be about to end four months under house arrest following a month in a high-security jail in Paraguay, according to sources claiming that he could enter a guilty plea for falsified passports.
The legendary Brazil playmaker has been detained in a hotel in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion since he and his brother, Roberto Assis, each paid $800,000 to leave a high-security jail where they had played football and held a birthday barbecue for Ronaldinho with inmates after being arrested on the border in March.
Ronaldinho faces up to five years in jail relating to a false passport which he said was a gift from Brazilian businessman Wilmondes Sousa Liria, who was also imprisoned.
The pair’s case is “90 percent closed” after prosecutors were unable to connect the pair to money laundering or organized crime, ESPN Brazil has quoted sources as saying, adding that a plea bargain could be offered while coronavirus restrictions delay the case.
That could involve Ronaldinho pleading guilty over the falsified passports, paying another fine or reporting to the case judge monthly, according to the report.
It is unclear why Ronaldinho did not enter Paraguay with his own passport, which is said to have been returned to him last September after authorities seized it as part of an investigation into environmental crimes.
Other sources told the outlet that the 2002 World Cup winner’s lawyers have been working on a strategy that could see him released this month, when he has reportedly said that he and his brother will meet their family in Porto Alegre before settling in Castelldefels – a town around 12 miles from the Camp Nou home of his former club, Barcelona.
The four-star hotel where they are staying, which includes a swimming pool, is owned by the club where Ronaldinho spent the longest spell of his career, scoring 45 goals in 170 appearances across five years and picking up the most prestigious individual prize in football in 2005.
Businesswoman Dalia Lopez, who is believed to have invited Ronaldinho to Paraguay and is thought to be key to resolving the case, has been on the run since the scandal started.
Ronaldinho attempted to enter the country to open a casino, promote an event for children’s charity the Angelic Fraternity and promote a book which ABC reported did not exist, losing an appeal to leave house arrest alongside his brother last month.
Paraguay’s migration director resigned as a result of the fiasco, which was reported to have involved $18,000 being paid for passports including nationalization for the brothers and Liria.
Speaking to ABC after he was put under house arrest, Ronaldinho insisted: “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.
“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.”
The public prosecutor has ordered the arrest of 18 other people in a case investigation that is allowed to last for six months.