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Rape convict Robinho arrested in Brazil

Former Manchester City and Real Madrid footballer Robinho was arrested Thursday in Brazil, after losing a last-minute court bid to delay serving his nine-year sentence for raping a woman a decade ago.

Supreme Court Judge Luiz Fux rejected Robinho’s request for a stay and ruled “the detention order is maintained… so that he can begin serving his sentence.”

Federal Police in the southeastern city of Santos said in a statement to AFP on Thursday night that their forces “carried out an arrest warrant… against Robson de Souza.”

“The prisoner will undergo an examination at the (Medical Legal Institute), a custody hearing and will be sent to the penitentiary system.”  

Popularly known as “Robinho,” the footballer was found guilty by an Italian court in 2017 of taking part in the gang rape of an Albanian woman celebrating her 23rd birthday at a Milan nightclub four years earlier.

The former Brazil international, now 40, lost an appeal in 2020 and had his sentence upheld by Italy’s highest court in 2022, after which Italian prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for him.

Brazil does not extradite its nationals, however, and Italy asked that Robinho be made to serve his sentence in his home country instead.

A court in Brasilia agreed Wednesday, by nine votes to two, and on Thursday court president Maria Thereza de Assis Moura signed a document paving the way for a warrant to be issued for Robinho’s incarceration.

Journalists flocked to his luxury condominium in Guaruja, near Santos, but his arrest wasn’t caught on camera. The Globo network later aired a short video showing him inside a police precinct.

Robinho will be taken to a prison in Tremembe, about 150 kilometers (95 miles) southeast of Sao Paulo, the nation’s most populous city, a Federal Police officer told journalists.

His lawyers had filed a request to the Supreme Court to allow him to remain free while challenging the latest court decision.

That was rejected. 

‘Brutally humiliated’

The footballer, who protests his innocence, told Brazilian network TV Record in an interview broadcast on Sunday that the sex had been consensual and accused the Italian justice system of racism.

According to the complaint, Robinho and his co-accused had made the young woman drink “to the point of rendering her unconscious and unable to resist,” and then had “sexual relations several times in a row” with her.

In March 2021, a Milan appeals court found Robinho had acted with “special contempt for the victim, who was brutally humiliated.”

Robinho’s case and that of former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain defender Dani Alves have sparked criticism over the failure of football authorities in Brazil to condemn violence against women.

In February, former Brazil international fullback Alves, 40, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for raping a woman in a nightclub in Barcelona. 

On Thursday, Palmeiras president Leila Pereira, the first woman at the head of the Brazilian club, lashed out at the football world for its silence on the twin rape convictions of Robinho and Alves.

“Nobody says anything,” she told Brazil’s UOL news site.

“It’s a slap in the face for all of us women, especially the case of Daniel Alves, who paid for (his) freedom,” Pereira said, referring to a Spanish court decision Wednesday to grant Alves bail of a million euros. 

“Each case of impunity is the seed of the next crime,” she added.

Robinho, for his part, will not gain his freedom quickly because Brazil “does not allow bail” for the crime he is accused of, criminal lawyer Leonardo Pantaleao told AFP.

Fall from grace

For Robinho, it has been a dramatic fall from grace.

Having begun his career in 2002 at Santos, a team made famous by Brazil great Pele, he was touted as the successor to the golden generation of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho. 

In 2005, he joined Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham at Real Madrid.

He went on to play for Manchester City from 2008 to 2010, and for Milan for four years until 2014.

In 2009, he was briefly detained in England for an alleged sexual assault of a young woman, but the charges were dropped after an investigation. 

He sought to return to Santos in 2020 but the club suspended the deal after pressure from fans and sponsors, leading to the abrupt end of his career. 

At about the same time, TV channel Globo Sports had released excerpts of a recording Italian prosecutors used to secure their conviction, in which Robinho purportedly said: “I’m laughing because I don’t care. The woman was completely drunk. She doesn’t even know what happened.”

Robinho has 100 Brazil caps and 28 goals for his country.

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