A police investigation has been opened into allegations of sexual abuse by a football coach at top-flight team Nõmme Kalju FC. Two more victims have reportedly since come forward, following the allegations first made public late last week, by former women's player Mia Belle Trisna, against Nõmme Kalju coach Fredo Getúlio Aurelio.
The Estonian Football League (EJL) referred the matter to the prosecutor's office and the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) Monday, ERR's sports portal reports. The league had initially planned ot conduct its own investigation, but since the allegations concern a potential crime, opted to hand it over.
EJL chief Anne Rei said Monday that: "We are a non-profit association, and if the information we receive indicates a possible crime, it is our duty to forward the material to the police as soon as possible. This is what we have done now."
"Of course, the future of our potential disciplinary proceedings and those of the police are two different things, one based on the law, and the other on the rules and principles that apply in football," Rei added, via a press release.
As reported on ERR News, Trisna alleges that Nõmme Kalju FC coach, Brazilian national Fredo Getulio Aurelio, had subjected her to sexual abuse over a lengthy period of time, starting in 2007 when she was 14 years old. Aurelio, now 66, appeared on Postimees broadcast "Otse postimehest" Saturday, to give his side of events.
EJL communications chief Mihkel Uiboleht says that other women had come forward in the light of the allegations about Aurelio.
EJL: More individuals have come forward concerning Aurelio
Speaking to ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade", Uiboleht said: "We now have more than two cases on the table. I'm not going to say the precise number ... but unfortunately we have two more cases where there have been inappropriate contacts between the coach and his student."
While the club denies knowledge of any incidents prior to the story coming to light, Uiboleht says it was in fact aware of at least some of the allegations, adding that a police investigation into allegations made by one individual had since been closed. Aurelio's contract with Nõmme Kalju is currently suspended.
"In two cases, not only one person, but a significant number of people, have said that the club had been aware of these two cases. One is the same public case that the police investigated but closed. The other case is one not yet known to the public," Uiboleht went on.
No cases had been reported to the EJL until last week, Uiboleht said.
"We have received information during the [EJL] disciplinary investigation that information about the inappropriate behavior of this coach has been passed on to the club on several occasions," Uiboleht told news portal Delfi (link in Estonian), adding that the league's own disciplinary process and ensuing
"The specific time [when the decision of the disciplinary committee will be reached] depends on how soon we can complete the procedure, but considering our usual practice, it could happen next (this) week," Uiboleht told Delfi.
Reimo Raivet, head of the sexual crimes and child protection group unit at the PPA's Northern Prefecture said that the length of time which had elapsed between the alleged incidents and the present moment could in part be due to the victim(s)' ages at the time.
Raivet said: "In our line of work, we come across cases where people only realize years later that what had happened to them during their childhood was not right."
"Often, the exploiter is an adult close to the individual or trusted by the, who should provide the child with a sense of security and safety. It is difficult to remember these episodes, but when we can talk about what happened, we can offer the victim the necessary support and raise public awareness in order to notice such incidents and prevent furhter suffering," he went on.
The age of consent in Estonia is 14 currently. While this had come under some recent political pressure, the recent allegations have prompted Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo to look at potentially raising the age, while the Riigikogu is set to debate the matter as well. At the same time, an individual is still considered a minor until age 18.
"We encourage anyone who feels they may have been abused to report it. Children and young people can report their concerns to friends, parents and other trusted adults, call the children's information line on 116 111, or contact the police directly," said Reimo Raivet added.
Saskia Kase, lead prosecutor at the Northern District Prosecutor's Office, said that the section of the Penal Code which deals with sexual intercourse or other acts of a sexual nature was relevant, in respect of consent. At the same time, given the age of the victim, if proven, any crime would in any case have a statute of limitations of five years, meaning it would have expired by now, particularly since Trisna has been at the age of majority (i.e. 18) for more than five years.
PPA investigations are generally directed by the prosecutor's office.
The Social Insurance Board has issued this page, which contains information in English on where to get help concerning all types of abuse, which has, the board says, seen an increase during the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing restrictions.
Editor: Andrew Whyte