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Sildaru's father escapes abuse charge but still faces embezzlement case

Tõnis Sildaru during an earlier interview with ERR.
Tõnis Sildaru during an earlier interview with ERR. Source: ERR

Tõnis Sildaru, the father of Estonian Olympic freestyle skiing bronze medalist Kelly Sildaru, has been acquitted on charges of assault and threatening behavior, as the Prosecutor's Office said there was insufficient evidence against him. Sildaru was however, charged with the illegal use of property earned by his underage daughter.

At the end of December, the Northern District Prosecutor's Office charged Tõnis Sildaru with embezzlement. Evidence gathered during the pre-trial investigation suggested that, between 2014 and 2020,  Tõnis Sildaru had illegally used property earned by his minor daughter for his own benefit as well as for the benefit of third parties.

"A parent is the legal representative and custodian of the assets of their offspring until the child reaches the age of maturity. However, this does not mean that a parent can treat property belonging to the child as if it belonged to themselves. On the contrary, a parent must keep the property belonging to their child separately and may only use it for the maintenance of the child, the management of the property or other current expenses relating to the child. However, it is worth bearing in mind that it is the parents who must support the child, not the child themselves," said Leelet Kivioja, a specialized prosecutor at the North District Prosecutor's Office.

"The materials of the pre-trial investigation indicate that Tõnis Sildaru, as the child's guardian, has repeatedly withdrawn cash and made transfers to himself and to third parties from his daughter's bank account. However, the Prosecutor's Office is not convinced that the money was used in the interests of his daughter," Kivioja added.

"Therefore, the main question in the upcoming court proceedings is whether Tõnis Sildaru's transactions with the assets belonging to the child were in the child's best interests or not. According to the charges, Tõnis Sildaru did not conduct transactions worth approximately €1 million in the interests of his child, but instead used the assets for his own benefit and the benefit of third parties."

Initially, Tõnis Sildaru had also been suspected of physical abuse and other threatening behavior. "As the pre-trial investigation was not able to prove any specific episodes of violence or threats that could have led to a prosecution, the Prosecutor's Office dropped criminal proceedings in this respect," said Kivioja.

The Sildaru family feud first came to light in the spring of 2020, when it emerged that assets earned by Kelly Sildaru over the years had been brought to court in order to be divided. On one side of the family was Tõnis and his son Henry, with Olympic bronze medalist Kelly her mother Lilian on the other. In 2021, Kelly Sildaru told ERR investigative news show "Pealtnägijja" that she had been a victim of domestic violence for a number of years.

"We are investigating incidents committed in the period between 2018 and 2019, that is, domestic physical abuse and also large-scale misappropriation," Sirle Melk, senior prosecutor of the Northern District Prosecutor's Office, told "Pealtnägijja" at the time.

"There were several episodes of physical abuse, and according to the allegations, he committed them against both his partner and his daughter Kelly."

Tõnis Sildaru denied the charges. "There are obviously malicious games going on here," he told "Pealtnägija" over the phone.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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