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Ronaldinho defense appeals pre-trial detention in fake passport case

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Brazilian retired football player Ronaldinho (C) arrives at Asuncion’s Justice Palace to testify about his irregular entry to the country, in Asuncion, on March 6, 2020. – Former Brazilian football star Ronaldinho and his brother have been detained in Paraguay after allegedly using fake passports to enter the South American country, authorities said Wednesday. (Photo by Norberto DUARTE / AFP)

Lawyers for Brazilian football great Ronaldinho have appealed his pre-trial detention and he will return to court next Tuesday, Paraguayan judicial sources said on Thursday.

The 39-year-old World Cup winner and his brother, Roberto de Assis Moreira, have been held in a police cell since last Friday accused of entering Paraguay using fake passports.

Ronaldinho’s lawyers insist that the magistrates who ordered the brothers’ detention “exceeded their functions,” making his jailing illegal.

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Sixteen people have so far been implicated in the fake passport scandal, public prosecutor Federico Delfino said.

On Tuesday, a court rejected a request from Ronaldinho’s lawyers for conditional release on bail or house arrest.

The brothers arrived in Asuncion from Brazil last week and showed their passports to immigration police, who did not immediately notice any problem.

Hours later, when the passports were determined to be fake, investigators raided the football star’s hotel room and seized the brothers’ identity cards and travel documents.

Ronaldinho said the passports had been given to him by people who had invited him to attend conferences sponsored by charities working with disadvantaged children.

A Brazilian businessman has also been arrested in connection with the fake travel documents, while two Paraguayan women have been placed under house arrest.

The country’s migration director has resigned.

Judge Gustavo Amarilla has said the investigation is looking into possible criminal association and money laundering.

Ronaldinho, considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, was a star of Brazil’s 2002 World Cup win and played for European giants Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan, among others.

He is being held in police cells alongside 25 police officers accused of various crimes and four politicians, including the former president of the Paraguyan Football Association and an ex-president of the House of Deputies.

Ronaldinho has taken part in a football match involving inmates and riot police, a police source told AFP.

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