Ronaldinho was one of the most talented players of his generation [Photo:Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images]

Ronaldinho has spent the night in a police cell after being dramatically arrested following a U-turn by Paraguayan prosecutors over his use of an adulterated passport.

The former Barcelona and AC Milan star was told on Thursday after an eight-hour grilling that he would not face trial for entering the country with a falsified Paraguayan passport showing he was a naturalised citizen.

But his hopes of returning home a free man were frustrated last night when prosecution chiefs reversed an earlier decision to offer him a plea bargain deal and police formally arrested him and his brother Roberto at the Sheraton Hotel in the capital Asuncion.

They spent the night in a police cell and now face a second quiz expected to take place today.

In a new development to the rollercoaster case a prosecutor specialising in financial crimes was brought into the ongoing probe, sparking local speculation the investigation would now be widened to look into possible money laundering.

A Brazilian businessman named as Wilmondes Sousa Lira who has been accused of providing Ronaldinho and his brother with the adulterated passports they used to get into Paraguay, was arrested on Wednesday and has been remanded in prison.

Two Paraguayan women thought to be the legitimate owners of the passports modified to show the former footballer and his brother as the holders, were also held.

Ronaldinho was arrested after a judge refused to rubber-stamp the deal announced by prosecutors on Thursday, which involved the Brazilian co-operating with authorities and admitting to using an adulterated passport to get into Paraguay to escape trial and ‘get off’ with a fine.

He now faces an extended period of time on remand in prison if the courts decide he is a flight risk and decide against bailing him.

Read Also: Ronaldinho and brother held, under probe in Paraguay

Ronaldinho leaves Paraguay's Supreme Court [Photo: Reuters]

A spokesman for Paraguay’s General Attorney’s office, confirming the prosecution U-turn in a statement, said last night/on Friday night: “Paraguay’s General Attorney’s Office has rectified its position.

“Ronaldinho’s arrest was ordered and he has now been placed under formal investigation.

“Prosecutor Osmar Legal, who is specialised in Financial Crimes, has been assigned to a working team with prosecutors Alicia Sapriza and Federico Delfino who have been kept on the case.”

Confirming investigators were opposing bail in a statement which referred to Ronaldinho by his full name, the General Attorney’s Office said: “Osmar Legal has accused the ex-footballer Ronaldo de Assis Moreira and his brother Roberto de Assis Moreira, both of Brazilian nationality, of the crime of using a public document with false content and is seeking their remand in prison.”

Local reports said prosecutors were already seeking information on the tax status of a number of people identified as being involved in the operation to invite Ronaldinho to Paraguay.

The former footballer was due to present a free mobile health clinic service for children on Thursday in an event which had to be cancelled.

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He was also scheduled to present his book called Genio de la Vida - ‘Genius of Life’ in English.

Ronaldinho and his brother have reportedly told prosecutors they were invited to Paraguay by a casino owner.

The retired footballer’s lawyer Adolfo Marin claimed after he was offered the deal prosecutors then reneged on that Ronaldinho 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.”

 

Ronaldinho and his brother, businessman Roberto de Assis Moreira, facing the press earlier this week [Photo: Nathalia Aguilar/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock]

He also confirmed he flew out of Sao Paulo with his own Brazilian passport before using the dodgy Paraguayan passport to enter the country.

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 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 earlier this week they had discovered it had been returned to him.

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Last year it was reported he 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.