Father of abducted child sues social care authority for damages

Andreas Gerdes filed court action against the Social Care Standards Authority to request damages after winning a custody battle against his former partner Anika De Vilera, only to have his child snatched from him anyway

Andreas Wil Gerdes has accused his wife Anika De Vilera of abducting their daughter and fleeing Malta
Andreas Wil Gerdes has accused his wife Anika De Vilera of abducting their daughter and fleeing Malta

In its original report on MaltaToday on Sunday print edition, the Social Care Standards Authority was incorrectly referred to as the Foundation for Social Welfare Services, which are two distinct entities.

The father of a sick child allegedly abducted by the mother and spirited away to Croatia in violation of court orders, has sent a judicial letter to the Social Care Standards Authority who is refusing to make contact with the Croatian authorities.

Andreas Gerdes filed the court action to request damages after winning a custody battle against his former partner Anika De Vilera, only to have his child snatched from him anyway.

De Vilera, who has three convictions for fraud in Germany, absconded from Malta with the child using a second passport – her first having been seized by the courts in March 2017 with a string of creditors out of pocket and several criminal proceedings – including one for allegedly enslaving her nanny, pending.

The mother left the islands in violation of a court decree ordering her not to leave Malta with the child, who suffers from life-threatening hydrocephalus.

The child was registered under another father, De Vilera’s husband at the time, as she was born of an extramarital affair.

Gerdes had sought the assistance of the Social Care Standards Authority but to no avail, so he contacted the Attorney General’s office, seeking redress.

In an email dated April 2017 the Attorney General’s office had written to Gerdes saying: “If Mr Gerdes is not registered as the father of the minor, even though he claims that he is the biological father of the child, he cannot claim custody rights on the child and, therefore, one of the elements constituting an abduction appears to be missing. Therefore Social Care Standards Authority cannot proceed with an abduction case application.”

But after the father filed his court action, the Attorney General and Commissioner of Police filed an urgent application in the Family Court urging Gerdes to seek redress abroad. Gerdes had replied, asking why the police and Attorney General weren’t able to communicate with a foreign jurisdiction, but this argument did not find favour with the courts.

Then, in April 2018, the Social Care Standards Authority informed Gerdes that it would not proceed with the abduction case, citing legal obligations under the 1980 Hague Convention on Child Abduction. It suggested that he file an application with the central authority in Croatia.

The following month, Gerdes filed an action for judicial review of the Social Care Standards Authority decision, arguing that it was not his responsibility to liaise with foreign authorities, but that of the Social Care Standards Authority.

While all this was going on in Malta, at the same time, a court in Zagreb ruled that the child was being unjustifiably retained by its mother.

In August 2018, the Social Care Standards Authority filed a sworn reply to the action for judicial review. In its reply the department argued that this was not a case of child abduction, as Gerdes was not registered as the child’s father at the time. In fact, the child was conceived whilst De Vilera was married to a third party, but Gerdes was later registered as the father in 2017.

Although this fact was agreed by the parties, that document was not drawn up according to law, argued the Social Care Standards Authority.

De Vilera history of fraud

De Vilera, real name Anika Sljokavica, 36, left Malta shortly after the Maltese courts ordered her to pay over €80,000 to a third party for a loan. She already had a chequered history of fraud, according to the website anikadevilera.com, which dishes out her every single biographical detail and psychiatric history.

The Croatian magazine Nacional has described De Vilera as a “habitual con artist”, after in 2013 she was suspected of misappropriating 8.5 million Croatian kuna (€1.14m) from a charity fund she was a PR consultant to. After the death of the charity’s beneficiary, Nora Situm, in March 2013, the beneficiary’s parents, Ivica and Dana filed a claim against the Hrabro Dijete charity.

In a report issued by the Berlin police back in March 2010, De Vilera was suspected in three cases of financial fraud, the most serious being a €360,000 claim from Riller & Schnauck GmbH, after she used invalid credit cards and false addresses to obtain three BMWs, misrepresenting herself as a doctor for the organisation Charité.

She also misrepresented herself as Dr Anika Mesic to the company Herdenberg Concept GmbH, to claim some €7,000 to host a symposium in Croatia with the title ‘The World As Guest In Croatia’. She gave the impression that the costs would be borne by the Croatian government.

In September 2010, the Berlin Administrative Court convicted De Vilera on three accounts of fraud and sentenced her to two fines and one seven-month prison sentence, which were later dismissed after she was deported from Germany.

“Altogether it is to be assumed that the accused will continue to cover her cost of living, at least partially through committing similar crimes – as she has been doing so for quite a while,” the chief inspector for the Berlin commissioner of police said in his 2010 report. “Apparently she used her impostor talents not only to cheat her way from one high-society buffet to the other, but also to commit plain goods and service credit frauds – after all a certain way of attire is necessary to keep up appearances.”

Histrionic personality disorder

De Vilera entered Germany in 2000 with a visa to study dentistry at Marburg University, but in 2008 the Rhine-District administration in Neuss requested her to leave Germany for not submitting proof of health insurance to the university. In a 2008 psychiatric opinion for the Neuss local court, Dr H.J. Althoff said De Vilera was suffering from “a histrionic personality disorder with anti-social and paranoid tendencies as well as of a moderate depressive state.”

The psychiatrist said De Vilera had an obsessive desire for attention and appreciation.

“She fights inner emptiness with superficial interests, but in particular with aggressive and criminal behaviour, while defaming important emotional aspects of her actions. Due to being rejected and humiliated in early childhood, and due to the lack in interpersonal contacts, since she was not allowed to bring friends or other students home, and since she had to bear being an outsider due to her father, she has fantasies of omnipotence and she makes up fantasy stories, which for her are a kind of self-consolation. Her instinct pushes her to an instant satisfaction of needs, which results in a kind of narcissistic triumph.”