Paraguayan prosecutors will not charge Ronaldinho Gaucho for possession of an altered passport, but the former Barcelona player has admitted guilt and agreed to face an alternative punishment, the lead official in the case said on Thursday.
The 2002 World Cup winner and his brother and business manager Roberto Assis both entered Paraguay on Wednesday with false documents, officials said. After being stopped by law enforcement officials they spent much of Thursday helping police with their enquiries.
Caso Ronaldinho: Fue allanada la suite donde está hospedado Ronaldinho. Se encontraron, documentos varios, C.I. y pasaportes paraguayos con los nombres de Ronaldinho y su hermano. Investigación en curso. pic.twitter.com/jGO4ZoHNWn— Fiscalía Paraguay (@MinPublicoPy) March 5, 2020
Prosecutor Federico Delfino said the brothers recognised they had committed a crime but said they did so unwittingly.
"We are looking for an alternative way out of this that doesn't result in a formal accusation and that recognises that these people were, we can say, taken by surprise," Delfino told reporters in the Paraguayan capital.
A judge will decide whether to accept Delfino's recommendation on Friday. If he does, he will rule on an alternative punishment, possibly a fine payable to a local charity.
Ronaldinho's lawyer Adolfo Marin said: "They decided voluntarily to stay and submit themselves to the public prosecutor's investigations. He [Ronaldinho] didn't need to use any other document than his own."
The brothers left Guarulhos airport in Sao Paulo on Wednesday with Brazilian passports and were given Paraguayan ones "as soon as they got off the plane" in the Paraguayan capital.
The men said the passports were a gift and an investigation indicated the numbers on the passports corresponded to other people, Delfino added.
Marin said Brazilians do not need a passport to travel between Brazil and Paraguay, both of which are members of the Mercosur bloc.
He could not explain why they showed Paraguayan passports when they had travelled recently on their Brazilian passports to China, Europe and the United States.
Ronaldinho had his Brazil passport confiscated by his own country's authorities in 2015 after he was convicted for a scheme involving illegal construction on the shore of Lake Guaíba, in Porto Alegre. The passport was held by Brazil authorities until Ronaldinho paid the $2 million fine, but it was returned to him in September of 2019.
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, who played for Barcelona, Atletico Mineiro, Flamengo and Paris Saint-Germain, last featured professionally in 2015.
The 39-year-old was the best player 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.