By Gerard Couzens and William Pugh
BRAZILIAN legend Ronaldinho will remain in prison in Paraguay after a failed attempt by his lawyers to have him placed under house arrest.
The former Barcelona and AC Milan star faces up to six months in jail alongside some of the country’s most dangerous criminals after a judge decided to keep him behind bars.
And he was warned on Tuesday he could be hit with a prison sentence of “at least” five years if found guilty of using a doctored passport to enter Paraguay.
The decision to keep him in jail was taken after a behind-closed-doors hearing in front of judge Gustavo Amarilla in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion.
He ruled the 39-year-old could pose a flight risk if he was set free and needed to remain in prison.
Ronaldinho’s lawyers offered a property bond as their get-out-of-jail card for the former footballer at the hearing.
But the judge decided the £600,000 gaff was not enough to guarantee the investigation could continue unheeded if Ronaldinho was put under house arrest.
The court reverse also affected the former Brazil star’s brother Roberto who was arrested alongside his sibling last Friday after prosecutors said they had used fiddled passports to enter the country two days earlier.
The pair are being kept in the same police cell in a building with 192 other prisoners.
Drug traffickers in the lock-up are said to be housed in a separate area.
The first picture of Ronaldinho in jail saw him beaming his trademark toothy grin in a sweaty vest top and shorts.
And on the same day, a police chief bizarrely confessed the ex-Barca trickster had been visited by several children at the prison so he could sign autographs.
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.
But he is said to have done so with a Paraguayan passport which stated he was a naturalised Paraguayan citizen.
Prosecutors 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 document in his possession.
The former footballer was initially offered the chance of an escape from trial and a fine.
But 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 after its scope was widened to look at possible money laundering.
However, the sibling pair claim they were tricked.
Ronaldinho’s lawyer Adolfo Marin 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.
He claims it was the “first thing he got out of his bag”.
At the weekend Marin branded Ronaldinho “stupid”, saying he hadn’t understood he had been given false documents.
Dalia Lopez, who runs the children’s charity Ronaldinho had been invited to promote, is reported to be planning to hand herself in after a warrant was issued for her arrest.
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 career.
He officially retired from football in 2018 – the same year he was forced to deny bigamy claims.
Last year it was reported Ronaldinho only had FIVE POUNDS in his bank account.
In 2012, his brother was sentenced to five years in a Brazilian jail 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.