Brazil Soccer Star Arrested in Sao Paulo Underground Casino

Posted on: March 15, 2021, 09:59h. 

Last updated on: March 15, 2021, 11:38h.

Brazil and Flamengo soccer star Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa was arrested in the early hours of Sunday after police raided an underground casino in San Paulo. Gambling has been outlawed in Brazil since 1946.

Gabigol Arrest at Underground Casino
Brazil’s Gabigol, center, leaves a police station in San Paulo in the early hours of Monday morning. (Image: Divulgação/Polícia Civil)

According to reports, a party was in full swing when authorities entered the makeshift casino, where 200 people had gathered in violation of COVID-19 rules. San Paulo is currently in the “red phase” of alert because of an alarming rise of cases of the virus.

Police said they found Gabigol hiding under a table at the venue, a detail that was later denied by the 24-year-old athlete. He was released without charge after being questioned at a police station.

‘Not Hiding Under Table’ Claim

Sometimes hailed as “the new Neymar,” Gabigol joined Rio de Janeiro-based Flamengo from Inter Milan in 2019. In the 2020 season, which concluded last month, he scored 14 goals to help his team defend their title as champions of Brazil’s top tier, the Campeonato Brasileiro. He has played five times for the Brazil national team.

“When I saw that there were a few more people than there should be, I decided to leave,” he claimed in an official apology. “I was about to enter the elevator to leave when the police arrived and asked everyone to lie on the floor. It was a big scare.

“I did what they told me. They took me to a room and spoke to me, I told them that I would help with whatever was necessary.

Had I been hiding, I wouldn’t have left as I did, with my head held high,” he added.

Police chief Eduardo Brotero described a “rather large underground casino” where “many people crowded together, exposed to contagion.” They were “flagrantly consuming alcohol, violating social distancing rules and [not] wearing masks,” he added.

COVID-19 Crisis

Brazil is in the grip of a COVID-19 crisis. That is fueled in part by a fast-spreading variant of the disease that emerged in the city of Manaus and appears to have the ability to evade some existing antibodies.

On March 5, Brazil accounted for 30 percent of all cases globally. In the past week alone, the country has recorded 12,818 new deaths and over 464,000 cases, according to figures from John Hopkins University.

Local healthcare systems are overwhelmed. As of Sunday, hospitals in fourteen of Brazil’s 26 states had occupancy rates at 90 percent or higher, and are said to be on the verge of collapse.

“I should have known that it was not the ideal place for me to be in,” Gabigol concluded. “I was always wearing a mask, I had gel sanitizer. But I made a mistake. I apologize. I’m very young and I know I’m going to make mistakes. I have to learn.”

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