Ex-Brazil star Robinho starts 9-year prison sentence for rape

Former soccer star Robinho started serving a nine-year prison sentence in his native Brazil on Thursday more than 10 years after he was first accused of raping a woman in Italy.

The 40-year-old Robinho left his apartment building in the beachfront city of Santos, outside Sao Paulo, in a black police car after losing a bid to remain free pending appeals.

A Brazilian high court ruled Wednesday that Robinho must serve his sentence in his home nation as a result of his 2017 rape conviction in Italy.

Judges on Brazil‘s Superior Court of Justice in the capital city of Brasilia voted 9-2 to validate the conviction of the former Real Madrid, Manchester City and AC Milan forward.

Robinho was sentenced in Italy to nine years in prison for his part in a group sexual assault in 2013 when he played for AC Milan.

Earlier on Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Luiz Fux denied a habeas corpus request that would have allowed the former player to remain free pending appeals. His lawyers want a new trial in Brazil on the grounds of national sovereignty.

As Brazilian law requires, Robinho is expected to spend his first hours in custody at a hearing with a judge to discuss possible illegalities in the proceedings that led to his arrest.

Robinho will then be taken to a penitentiary, which authorities have yet to disclose.

Brazil doesn’t extradite nationals, which led Italy to seek his imprisonment in his home nation.

“Brazil cannot be a shelter for criminals,” judge Mauro Campbell Marques said during his vote on Wednesday.

Robinho 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 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.

Robinho rose to national fame in 2002 as a 18-year-old who led Santos to its first national title since the Pelé era. He did it again two years later. He won the Confederations Cup with Brazil and left for Real Madrid, where he wasn’t as successful. The Brazilian joined Manchester City in 2008 and one year later was accused of rape during a night out in Leeds. Police did not file charges.

Robinho returned to Santos in 2010 to be a mentor to a young Neymar. He won the Brazilian Cup as a reference for the promising teenager and earned a place in Brazil’s starting eleven for the 2010 World Cup. His team was knocked out in the quarterfinals by the Netherlands.

The Brazilian joined AC Milan after the World Cup and won the Serie A title that year. Following the rape case, he rejoined Santos along with stints in China and Turkey.