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Former Barcelona forward Ronaldinho heads to court in Paraguay

Former Brazil and Barcelona forward Ronaldinho Gaucho fronted court in Paraguay on Saturday (March 7) for attempting to enter the country with an adulterated passport, Paraguayan police said.

Gilberto Fleitas, the head of the investigations unit of the Paraguayan police, said this week Ronaldinho and his brother were taken into custody just hours after a judge refused to ratify a prosecutor’s proposal for an alternative punishment.

The judge is to decide whether to free Ronaldinho and his brother Roberto Assis or keep them in custody while investigations continue.

Their unexpected arrest came just hours after the two brothers appeared set to leave the landlocked South American nation and draw a line under their tumultuous stay that began on Wednesday (March 4) when they were questioned by police after presenting falsified passports on arrival at the Asuncion airport.

Federico Delfino, a prosecutor investigating the case, said he believed the two had been tricked into accepting Paraguayan passports on arrival and recommended that because they had cooperated with official they be released after paying an alternative punishment.

However, a judge rejected that accord on Friday (March 6) and just minutes later the deal was abrogated by the top public prosecutor. Arrest warrants were then issued for both the former Gremio, AC Milan and Paris St-Germain player and his brother.

Although he last played professionally in 2015, Ronaldinho, who also turned out for Brazilian clubs Atletico Mineiro, Flamengo and Fluminense, is still hugely popular with global football fans for his skills and showmanship.

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.

(Production: Jorge Adorno, Paul Vieira)

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