Robinho, ex-Manchester City player, must serve 9-year prison term for rape

Brazilian judges uphold Italian court’s ruling and say Robinho must serve the sentence in his home country.

Atletico Mineiro's Robinho reacts after failing to score during a Copa Libertadores soccer match against Argentina's Racing in Buenos Aires
Robinho ose to national fame in 2002 as an 18-year-old who led Santos to its first national title since the football great Pele's era [File: Victor R Caivano/AP]

Brazilian judges have ruled to uphold former AC Milan and Brazil striker Robinho’s rape conviction, adding that he must serve his nine-year prison sentence in Brazil.

The trial in Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice (STJ), the country’s top court for nonconstitutional matters, had a majority rule that Italy’s decision was valid in Brazil.

A Milan court in 2017 found Robinho and five other Brazilians guilty of gang-raping a woman in 2013 after plying her with alcohol in a discotheque.

The conviction was confirmed by an appeals court in 2020 and validated by Italy’s Supreme Court in 2022. Robinho who had played for Real Madrid and Manchester City, lives in Brazil and has always denied the charges.

Brazil does not usually extradite its citizens, so Italy requested last year that Robinho serve his prison sentence in his home country.

Robinho’s lawyer, Jose Eduardo Alckmin, told the court at the start of Wednesday’s hearing that his client wants a retrial in Brazil on the grounds of national sovereignty.

“Robinho is available for our judiciary. If an officer gets there, he will comply. He will not oppose,” the lawyer said. The first judge to vote, Francisco Falcao, said Robinho should serve his sentence in Brazil. He added that the former player cannot go unpunished and that diplomatic friction between Brazil and Italy could emerge if the sentence was not served.

“There’s no obstacle to validate the execution of his sentence. It was confirmed by a court in Milan, which is the competent authority in this case,” Falcao said. “The conviction is final. The defendant was not put on trial in absence in Italy, he had representation.”

Judge Raul Araujo, one of the two who disagreed with the majority, argued Robinho could not be jailed in Brazil for a conviction in Italy.

Judge Isabel Gallotti, one of the few women in the court, disagreed. “This foreign sentence is long, well-founded and well-reasoned,” Gallotti said.

‘We will punch her in the face’

Robinho lives in Santos, outside Sao Paulo. He relinquished his passport to Brazilian authorities in March 2023. He continues to deny any wrongdoing and insists his sexual relations with the woman at a Milan bar were consensual.

The court also ruled it would be up to authorities in Santos to decide when and how to jail Robinho.

The former footballer said in an interview with TV Record aired on Sunday that racism was to blame for his conviction in Italy.

“I played only four years in Italy and I got tired of seeing stories of racism. Unfortunately, that exists to this day. [The rape case] was in 2013, now we are in 2024. The same people who don’t do anything against it [racism] are the ones who sentenced me,” Robinho said.

Federal prosecutor Hindemburgo Chateaubriand reminded the judges during the session of some audio recordings obtained by Italian authorities in which Robinho discussed the case with friends.

“I can’t even say all he said because it would be too vulgar for this court,” Chateaubriand said.

Brazilian media published some of those recordings last year.

“We will punch her in her face. You will punch her in the face and say; ‘What did I do to you?’” Robinho tells a friend in one of the excerpts, during which he claims he did not take part in the rape.

In another dialogue, Robinho says: “That is why I am laughing, I don’t care at all.”

Robinho rose to national fame in 2002 as an 18-year-old who led Santos to its first national title since the football great Pele’s era. He did it again two years later as he became a prolific scorer with 21 goals in 36 matches in the Brazilian league.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies