Former Brazil striker Robinho to serve rape sentence in Brazil. GETTY IMAGES

A court in Brasilia announced this Wednesday that the former Real Madrid player will have to serve the nine-year sentence handed down by an Italian judge in 2017 for his involvement in a gang rape in Milan in 2013 in Brazil. Robinho's lawyers filed a 'habeas corpus' petition yesterday to prevent his imprisonment.

Robson de Souza, popularly known as "Robinho", was convicted by an Italian court in 2017. The court voted nine to two in favour of an Italian request to allow Robinho to serve his sentence in his home country after he was found guilty of taking part in the gang rape of a 23-year-old Albanian woman celebrating her birthday in a Milan nightclub in 2013, AFP reported.

The former Manchester City and Real Madrid striker, who was one of the world's most famous footballers a few decades ago, will serve a nine-year prison sentence for rape handed down by an Italian court in Brazil, judges in Brasilia said on Wednesday. Lawyers said Robinho, who was not present at Wednesday's hearing, would remain free pending a possible appeal.

The former Brazil international is now 40 years old. At the time of the offences, he was playing for AC Milan, another of the most decorated clubs in world football. The events date back to 2013 and the conviction to 2017. 

Robinho plays for Brazil. GETTY IMAGES
Robinho plays for Brazil. GETTY IMAGES

However, the sentence was upheld by Italy's highest court in 2022, prompting Italian prosecutors to issue an international arrest warrant for him. Robinho had already lost at the Milan Court of Appeal in 2020.

Brazil does not extradite its nationals. Italy requested that Robinho serve his sentence in his home country. The footballer has maintained his innocence. In an interview broadcast on Sunday, he told Brazilian TV station Record that the sexual relationship was "consensual".

"I have never denied (the encounter). I could have denied it because my DNA was not there, but I am not a liar." He also accused the Italian justice system of "racism", AFP reported.

"I vote for the homologation of the sentence, with the transfer of the execution of the sentence, so that the convicted person will first serve the nine-year sentence in a closed regime for the crime of rape," Judge Francisco Falcão ruled. The decision is not yet final, however, as it will have to be reviewed by a penal execution judge in the city of Santos before a final verdict is reached, adds the Spanish publication AS Tikitakas.

Robinho has played in three of Europe's biggest leagues: Spain, England and Italy. GETTY IMAGES
Robinho has played in three of Europe's biggest leagues: Spain, England and Italy. GETTY IMAGES

Also on Wednesday, Brazil's Minister for Women's Affairs, Cida Gonçalves, issued a statement saying she agreed with the decision of the Brazilian judiciary. "The verdict in the Robinho case shows that it is possible to respect diplomatic agreements without compromising justice," she said in a statement.

This Thursday, according to local media reports cited by Spanish outlet Marca, the former footballer's lawyers filed a 'habeas corpus' appeal with the Supreme Court to prevent his immediate detention. 'Habeas corpus' is a legal tool provided by the Brazilian constitution that allows a convicted person to appeal to a judge if they believe a detention order is illegal or an abuse of power.