Ronaldinho questioned by police in Paraguay over alleged doctored passport

Former Brazil striker and his brother are being investigated by Paraguayan authorities

 Brazilian former soccer star Ronaldinho Gaucho (R) along with his brother Roberto  de Assis  in the prosecutor’s office in Asuncion, Paraguay. Photograph: Paraguayan public prosecutor/EPA

Brazilian former soccer star Ronaldinho Gaucho (R) along with his brother Roberto de Assis in the prosecutor’s office in Asuncion, Paraguay. Photograph: Paraguayan public prosecutor/EPA

 

Former Barcelona and Brazil striker Ronaldinho Gaucho was being questioned by Paraguay’s authorities on Thursday after arriving in the country with what police said was an adulterated Paraguayan passport.

Ronaldinho and his brother and business manager Roberto de Assis were both questioned by law enforcement officials in their hotel room on the outskirts of Asuncion shortly after arriving in the country on Wednesday, local police said in a statement.

Paraguayan prosecutor Federico Delfino told a news conference on Thursday that the pair left Guarulhos airport in São Paulo with Brazilian passports and were given Paraguayan ones “as soon as they got off the plane”.

“Both Mr Ronaldinho and his brother said they were a gift,” Mr Delfino told reporters.

Initial investigations indicated the numbers on the passports corresponded to other people, Mr Delfino added.

“They have not gone through the process of obtaining Paraguayan nationality,” Mr Delfino said. “To get Paraguayan nationality or to be naturalised as a Paraguayan you have to have resided in the country.”

Reuters has contacted Mr Assis to request comment on the allegations.

A lawyer for Mr Assis, a former Gremio and AC Milan player, said Ronaldinho and his brother did not need passports to travel between Brazil and Paraguay, both of which are members of the Mercosur bloc.

The lawyer, Adolfo Marin, told Reuters the pair were taken aside after arriving and asked to show travel documents.

He could not explain why they showed Paraguayan passports when they had travelled recently on their Brazilian passports to China, Europe and the US.

Mr Marin said the two were surprised by Paraguayan authorities, but he asked for more time to see the formal accusations before responding further.

Phones seized

The Paraguayan public prosecutor’s office, who collaborated with the police in their investigation, said its officials seized the pair’s cell phones and passports during a visit to their hotel on Wednesday.

Both men were allowed to remain overnight in their presidential suite at the country club where they were staying, but returned to meet with the public prosecutor as requested on Thursday.

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.

Ronaldinho (39) last played professionally in 2015.

He was considered among the best players in the world at his peak in the early part of this century.

He was named Fifa world player of the year in 2004 and 2005 and won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 and the Champions League with Barcelona in 2006. – Reuters