Ronaldinho, brother questioned in Paraguay over altered passports

Brazilian football great Ronaldinho was questioned on Thursday by Paraguayan officials over alleged possession of altered passports, according to a police report obtained by ESPN Brasil.

The 2002 World Cup winner arrived into the country on Wednesday for a charity event, where officials then came to his hotel suite near the capital of Asuncion and allegedly found the documents.

Ronaldinho and his brother, Roberto, claimed they received the passports upon arriving to Asuncion's airport as "a gift" by the organisers of the event he was attending in Paraguay.

However, Federico Delfino, of the prosecutors' office, said that while Ronaldinho and his brother left Brazil having shown documents corresponding to their country, they entered Paraguay showing the fake Paraguay passports.

"We checked the documents and it stood out," Delfino said. "In order to obtain Paraguay nationality, you have to live for some time in the country. The passport numbers belong to other people, there are original documents, but with fake information. These passports had been withdrawn this January.

"They [Ronaldinho and his brother] have not begun any process to obtain Paraguay nationality. They claim it was a gift of the people that brought them to the country. As we understand, they entered Paraguay migration with this document but they left Brazil with Brazilian documents."

Because both countries are part of Mercosur, Brazilians do not need passports to travel to Paraguay but rather can enter with a simple Brazilian identity card, which the brothers did.

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.

Delfino said Ronaldinho and his brother will remain in the country.

"They must face the justice system. They will be retained in the country for as long as its necessary," he said.

The two brothers will remain at the hotel under custody by authorities. They spent eight hours being questioned by authorities on Thursday.

Another man who accompanied the brothers, Wilmondes Sousa Lira, was also detained.

On Thursday, Delfino said Paraguay officials also detained two women to whom the altered passports allegedly belonged. María Isabel Gayoso and Esperanza Apolonia Caballero, were being held for questioning by the Paraguay police unit that investigates crime.

"[Ronaldinho and his brother] are not being arrested, they are still under judicial investigation and they have to testify. Then it will be decided whether they will be arrested or not," Paraguay's interior minister Euclides Acevedo told ESPN Brasil.

Acevedo added that Ronaldinho and his brother are cooperating in the investigation and are claiming they "were tricked" by the man arrested.

Ronaldinho's storied club career included stints at Flamengo, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Milan.