RONALDINHO has reportedly been tested for coronavirus as the disease threatens to derail his hopes of an early end to his Paraguayan jail nightmare.
Brazilian newspaper Estadao said the former footballer and his brother Roberto had their temperatures taken in their cell as part of checks to see whether any inmates were showing the tell-tale symptoms of the killer virus.
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News came as the pandemic led to Paraguayan justice officials telling their defence lawyers two of their appeals could not be dealt with for another fortnight because of government restrictions linked to attempts to control the spread of the coronavirus.
One of the appeals knocked back was a bid to challenge a U-turn on an initial offer by prosecutors to spare the former Barcelona and AC Milan star a court trial for allegedly entering Paraguay last week with an adulterated passport.
Ronaldinho’s lawyers were told the appeal had to wait till March 27 when a two-week suspension of most court business ends because it was not considered an emergency.
Only a new appeal by his legal team against the decision to keep him and his brother on remand in jail was accepted after being categorised as an “emergency procedure.”
Judge Gustavo Amarilla ruled on Tuesday the 39-year-old must remain in prison after a failed attempt by his lawyers to have him placed under house arrest.
It left him facing up to six months behind bars before he is told whether he will be tried for a crime which authorities have said could result in a prison sentence of “at least” five years if he is found guilty.
Ronaldinho’s lawyers offered a property bond as their get-out-of-jail card for the former footballer at the behind-closed-doors hearing in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion.
But the judge decided the value of the property, put at more than £600,000, was not enough to guarantee the ongoing investigation could continue unheeded and said he thought the footballer could be a flight risk if released from prison.
No date for a decision on the new appeal, which will be taken by Paraguay’s Appeal Court after state prosecutors have been offered the chance to submit their challenge, has yet been given.
Fourteen people have now been placed under formal investigation over the passport scandal Ronaldinho and his brother have been caught up in, including the Brazilian businessman alleged to have handed them their passports and two women believed to be the rightful owners of the travel documents.
Police were first called to Ronaldinho’s luxury hotel last Wednesday after a tip-off he had entered the country hours earlier to attend a charity launch and present his new book with a Paraguayan passport which stated he was a naturalised citizen.
Prosecutors have said the passport was requested by a woman before its contents were doctored to include Ronaldinho’s photo and full name – Ronaldo de Assis Moreira. His brother had a similar passport.
The former footballer was initially offered the chance of an escape from trial and a fine before a U-turn by prosecutors led to him being arrested in dramatic fashion last Friday at the Sheraton Hotel and hauled to court in handcuffs the following day.
An expert in financial crimes has now been drafted into the remodelled prosecution team leading the investigation after its scope was widened to look at possible money laundering.
Ronaldinho and his brother are claiming they were tricked. His Paraguayan lawyer Adolfo Marin has said the former footballer 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.”
At the weekend the lawyer branded Ronaldinho “stupid”, saying he hadn’t understand 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 week they had discovered it had been returned to him and he used it to leave Brazil on a flight from Sao Paulo.
The revelation has 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 POUNDS five 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.
Five people have tested positive for coronavirus so far in Paraguay, although health chiefs said today/yesterday (THURS) there were another 125 “suspicious” cases that were being analysed.