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Sport

Paraguay judge rules Ronaldinho can go free after months-long detention

ASUNCION (Reuters) - A Paraguayan judge ended the house arrest of former Barcelona player Ronaldinho Gaucho on Monday, freeing the way for him to return to Brazil and end a more than five-month ordeal that began when he tried to enter the country with an adulterated passport.

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A judge in Asuncion agreed to a “conditional suspension” of charges, effectively clearing the player of any responsibility for the crime but ordering him to pay $90,000 in costs, which would be given to charitable organizations.

“The precautionary measure of arrest is lifted, there are no more restrictions placed by Paraguayan justice,” Judge Gustavo Amarilla told the court.

Ronaldinho, who wore a black t-shirt, hat and mask in court, remained expressionless and with arms crossed following the judgment.

The football star plans to leave the Paraguayan capital Asuncion for Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday morning on a private plane, Federico Gonzalez, an advisor to the Paraguayan presidency who also runs the government advisory service on coronavirus-related travel restrictions, told a local radio station.

The charismatic striker, who helped Brazil win the 2002 World Cup, was arrested on March 6 along with his brother and business manager Roberto Assis when they tried to enter Paraguay with adulterated Paraguayan passports.

They were held in jail for 32 days before being released into house arrest in a top Asuncion hotel after paying $1.6 million in bail.

According to documents seen by Reuters, prosecutors in the case said they found “no elements to prove that (Ronaldinho) directly participated in obtaining the irregular documents.”

The brothers have repeatedly maintained their innocence with their lawyer calling their detention “arbitrary, abusive and illegal.”

Ronaldinho last played professionally in 2015, including for Brazilian clubs Atletico Mineiro, Flamengo and Fluminense, but remains hugely popular with global football fans.

He won the World Cup as part of the Brazilian team in 2002 and the Champions League with Barcelona in 2006. He was also named FIFA world player of the year in 2004 and 2005.

Reporting by Daniela Desantis in Asuncion; Writing by Andrew Downie and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Dan Grebler and Richard Pullin

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