Dani Alves jailed for four and a half years for rape

Dani Alves in a Barcelona court on sexual assault charges
Dani Alves initially claimed he had not met the woman, then said that the sexual encounter was consensual - Getty Images/Jordi Borras

Dani Alves has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for rape.

The former Barcelona and Brazil star was found guilty of assaulting a woman at a Spanish nightclub on New Year’s Eve 2022.

Alves had denied rape but was convicted following a three-day trial earlier this month and ordered to pay his victim €150,000 (£128,000) in compensation.

The 40-year-old father-of-two learnt his fate on Thursday, having been held in custody for more than a year since his arrest on suspicion of “sexual assault with penetration”.

He was denied bail after being deemed a flight risk, with Brazilian law meaning its citizens cannot be extradited by the country.

Prosecutors had been seeking a nine-year prison sentence followed by 10 years of probation, as well as €150,000 (£128,000) in compensation to the victim.

“The victim said that she was scared in the bathroom and that there was a moment when she let herself go so that everything would end quickly,” the prosecutor said when maintaining the demand for a nine-year sentence at the end of the trial. “No woman who walks into a bathroom thinks she might be raped.”

Ester García, the lawyer who represented the victim, had requested 12 years in prison for Alves, the maximum penalty for rape. “If she went into the bathroom and she said no, then it’s no. That’s why consent has been modified with the new law. In the bathroom she repeated ‘I want to leave’,” she said in reference to Spain’s recent reform of rape laws based purely on the existence or absence of consent.

In deciding on the sentence, the court took into account Alves’ having put up €150,000 in compensation for the victim before the trial, whatever the result. It did not accept his claim that he had been drunk as an extenuating circumstance.

The decision of what was a three-judge panel can be appealed.

Yolanda Díaz, deputy prime minister and leader of the Left-wing Sumar alliance of parties, said she hoped Alves’ conviction would act as an “exemplary” deterrent to all men who abuse women.

“It’s over in this country - enough with machismo, with sexual assaults,” Ms Díaz told reporters in Spain’s parliament.

Alves’ lawyer told the media that his client would be appealing the sentence.

“We are going to appeal. I continue to believe in Mr. Alves’ innocence,” Inés Guardiola said. Asked about how Alves had reacted to being convicted, she said: “He is bearing up. Now we have to study the sentence calmly.”

Alves' ex-wife Joana Sanz, second left, and his mother Dona Lucia leave court during the trial
Alves' ex-wife Joana Sanz, second left, and his mother Dona Lucia leave court during the trial - Enric Fontcuberta/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

When the trial opened, the woman told the court how the three-time Champions League winner violently assaulted her in a nightclub toilet.

The victim, who was 23 at the time of the attack, ratified her initial accusation made before police and at a pre-trial hearing in Barcelona, in which she said that Alves had pushed and hit her before raping her without protection.

Her voice was distorted and a screen put in place so that Alves could not see her as she gave evidence.

The prosecution said that Alves met the woman in the VIP area of the Sutton nightclub in Barcelona and that, after buying her and her friends a drink, he beckoned her to join him in a bathroom, the only area of the club not covered by cameras.

Once inside, it is alleged that Alves demanded oral sex and, when the woman refused, he slapped her, insulted her and raped her before leaving the club with his companion.

A friend of the victim, who had been in Sutton that night, told the court: “She told me that he had hurt her a lot and that he had ejaculated inside her.”

The witness said that Alves had been “very slimy” in the booth where the victim and herself had been sitting, adding: “He put his hand on my back; he almost touched my bottom.”

Later, she said she had found the victim in a distraught state in the toilet, and convinced her to tell the nightclub staff what had happened. The victim reported the incident that night and underwent a medical examination the prosecution claims showed injuries compatible with a rape.

According to forensic evidence from the pre-trial hearings, the woman continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the alleged attack.

Alves’s lawyers said that the former footballer could not be guaranteed a fair hearing as he had been subjected to a “trial by media” over the past year, but the complaint was rejected.

The former full-back had initially denied knowing his victim in a TV interview but later admitted he had sex with her, claiming it was consensual.

He then told Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia that he had originally lied because he was afraid his wife Joanna Sanz would leave him.

On the final day of his trial, Alves denied raping the young woman when taking the stand.

“If she wanted to leave, she could have left, she was not obligated to be there,” he told the court, adding that “at no time” had the victim asked to leave.

Alves denied hitting her and grabbing her hair, protesting: “I am not a violent man.”

Separately, prosecutors were investigating the distribution of a video identifying and vilifying the alleged victim.

Alves’s mother and others connected to the footballer posted a reel on Instagram with the apparent intention of demonstrating that the woman was lying about the alleged rape in order to gain fame and a monetary compensation.