Robinho, his nine-year sentence for gang rape – and why it took seven years for him to be jailed – The Athletic

By Jack LangMar 28, 2024

Warning: This article contains graphic sexual language which some readers may find distressing.

Last Thursday evening, police arrested former Brazil international Robinho at his beachfront condominium in Santos, south of Sao Paulo.

He was driven 210km (130 miles) to the Tremembe Penitentiary, a prison complex just off BR-116, the main highway between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In the early hours of Friday, he began a nine-year jail sentence for gang rape.

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Earlier in the week, Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice (STJ) — the country’s highest appellate court — had convened to discuss a case that has dragged on since November 2017, when Robinho was first found guilty of the crime by a court in the Italian city of Milan.

The conviction was upheld across two appeals within Italy’s legal system, but Robinho had returned to Brazil by the time of the final judgement in 2022. Because Brazil does not extradite its citizens born in the country, there had been significant doubt over whether the former Real Madrid, Manchester City and AC Milan forward, now 40 years old, would serve any time in jail.

The condominium complex where Robinho was arrested (Miguel Schincariol/AFP via Getty Images)

After a four-hour hearing, the STJ voted by nine to two for his sentence to be transferred to Brazil. Robinho’s legal team plan to challenge the decision in two instances — to the STJ itself, then to the Federal Supreme Court — but a habeas corpus request for him to remain free in the interim was denied.

As things stand, Robinho will be held in an individual cell at Tremembe until late 2027, when he may be moved to a ‘semi-open’ regime. He will only be eligible for full release in 2033.

The case dates back to January 2013, when Robinho — playing for Milan at the time — and five friends attended a Brazilian music night at Sio Cafe, a nightclub in the northern Italian city.

Per her testimony, the victim — a woman of Albanian origin who has never been named — and two friends were invited to join the group in the club. The victim was celebrating her 23rd birthday. She had met Robinho at a different nightclub two years prior. She said that one of Robinho’s friends had messaged her about meeting up that evening, but told her she should only come to the table after Robinho’s wife had gone home.

She said that the Brazilians bought them drinks, but that only she drank them because one of her friends was pregnant and the other was driving. At 1.30am, her friends went home. She danced with the Brazilians, before going to an outdoor area for fresh air, at which point one of Robinho’s friends tried to kiss her. They then both went to a changing room, where he continued trying.

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The victim said that she only had flashes of memory and that she couldn’t speak or stand. She said she was drunk and sexually abused by six men while unconscious.

“I believe that at the start, (unnamed friend of Robinho) was performing oral sex on me, and Robinho was taking advantage of me in a different way,” she said. “Then they swapped roles. From then on, I don’t remember anything because I found myself surrounded by the boys. I didn’t know what was happening.”

She said that she remembered hearing Robinho ask a friend for a condom. She said that at the end, she started to cry, realising what had happened and that Jairo Chagas, a musician who had been playing in the club, consoled her. Chagas told police he had witnessed no scenes of a sexual nature on that evening but was later accused of giving false testimony. He reached an agreement over this and performed community service.

According to the subsequent police investigation, the victim left the club being carried by the Brazilians, first entering Robinho’s car and then the car of one of his friends. Her clothes were later given to police to analyse.

Robinho was questioned by Italian police in mid-2014. In October of that year, his representatives went on the offensive, claiming that the story had been “irresponsibly reported in the Italian media and reproduced in Brazil without the slightest effort to check (its) veracity”.

In court in 2017, Robinho denied the accusations, claiming that he and the victim had engaged in oral sex but that the encounter was consensual and no one else had been involved.

Robinho was an AC Milan player from 2010-15 (Dino Panato/Getty Images)

That defence fell apart in the face of the evidence. The semen of one of the other men was found on the victim’s clothing. Police also produced a series of transcripts of phone conversations between Robinho and his friends, obtained via secret bugs in his car, which prosecutors said undermined Robinho’s position.

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The court found the men guilty under article 609-Bis of the Italian legal code, which relates to the participation of two or more people in an act of sexual violence. Robinho and his friends were judged to have forced the victim into sexual relations due to her condition of “physical or psychological inferiority”.

With an appeal pending, Robinho remained a free man. He played the last two games of the 2017 Brazilian season for Atletico Mineiro, then moved to Turkey, spending a year at Sivasspor and then joining Istanbul Basaksehir. When the latter were drawn against Roma in the 2019-20 Europa League, Robinho did not travel for the away leg in Italy.

For a time, his conviction did not seem to fully pierce the public consciousness in his homeland. That changed in October 2020, when he began a fourth spell at Santos, his boyhood club.

The decision to sign him provoked outrage, with women’s fan groups protesting loudly. A series of companies pulled out of sponsorship deals with Santos.

Club president Orlando Rollo was initially defensive, talking about a “moral stoning”. Then, everything changed.

GloboEsporte, Brazil’s biggest sports website, published the transcripts of the audio from the court case.

They were shocking in the extreme. Take this exchange between Robinho and Ricardo Falco, the only other man involved whose identity is known.

Falco: “She remembers the situation. She knows that all of us had sex with her.”

Robinho: “I’m certain that (FRIEND 1) ejaculated inside her.”

Falco: “I don’t believe it. On that day she wasn’t able to do anything, not even stand up. She was really out of it.”

Robinho: “Yes.”

Or these quotes from a conversation between Robinho and Chagas:

Robinho: “I’m laughing because I’m not concerned. The woman was completely drunk. She doesn’t know what happened. She can say what she wants because I didn’t touch her, it was the boys who grabbed her.”

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Robinho: “Look, the guys are in the s**t. It’s lucky there is a God because I didn’t even touch that girl. I saw (FRIEND 1) and others f**k her. They’re going to have problems, not me. I remember that the guys who grabbed her were (FRIEND 2) and (FRIEND 3)… There were five of them on her.”

Then there is this, from a further exchange between Robinho and Chagas:

Robinho: “The police can’t say anything. I will say that I was with you and then I went home.”

Chagas: “But did you have sex with the woman too?”

Robinho: “No. I tried. (FRIEND 1), (FRIEND 2), (FRIEND 3)…”

Chagas: “I saw you when you put your penis in her mouth.”

Robinho: “That doesn’t mean having sex.”

Robinho spent 2016 and 2017 with Atletico Mineiro (Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)

Santos cancelled Robinho’s contract on the day the transcripts were made public. Three days later, the player himself decided to give an interview to Brazilian news outlet UOL Esporte, in which he again professed his innocence and claimed he was the victim of a witch hunt.

“They translated a lot of things out of context,” he said. “It was a long time ago. Unfortunately, there’s this feminist movement…”

The defence team’s appeals in the Italian court system came to nothing.

In 2020, the Milan Appeal Court upheld the initial sentence, highlighting the “particular contempt” Robinho had for the victim, who had been “brutally humiliated”.

In 2022, the case was heard by Italy’s Supreme Court, with the same result.

“More than 15 judges have analysed the case across the first, second and third trials, and have confirmed my client’s account,” said Jacopo Gnocchi, the victim’s lawyer. “Now we need to see how the punishment will be applied. Brazil is a great country and I hope it will know how to deal with this situation.”

Initially, Italy’s justice ministry asked for Robinho’s extradition. When it became clear there was no constitutional provision for that, the Italian government appealed for Brazil to transfer the sentence. That is how the case ended up in front of the STJ last week.

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It is worth noting the STJ did not review the facts of the case itself. The judgement of the Italian Supreme Court is considered final and beyond appeal. The magistrates only analysed formal aspects relating to the transfer of the sentence to Brazil and the application of justice there.

Robinho’s defence team can only appeal based on these same considerations; they cannot now argue that he is innocent.

If you would like to talk to someone having read this article, please try Women’s Aid at this link.

(Top photo: Ross Dettman/Getty Images)

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Jack Lang is a staff writer for The Athletic, covering football. Follow Jack on Twitter @jacklang

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