Je­ho­vah’s ‘hid­ing money’

Sex-abuse vic­tims at­tack eva­sive ac­tions

Sunday Mail - - News - NATALIE O’BRIEN

THE Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses re­li­gious de­nom­i­na­tion has been ac­cused of sell­ing as­sets and send­ing cash off­shore to avoid pay­ing Aus­tralian child-sex abuse vic­tims.

Au­thor­i­ties have also been ac­cused of fail­ing to look into al­le­ga­tions by whistle­blow­ers that Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses may be hid­ing its money be­fore the June 30 dead­line to join the Na­tional Re­dress Scheme.

Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses has been named in the Royal Com­mis­sion into In­sti­tu­tional Re­sponses to Child Sex­ual Abuse as hav­ing 1800 po­ten­tial vic­tims and more than 1000 al­leged pae­dophiles, 537 of them self-con­fessed.

But there is no ev­i­dence the re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tion re­ferred any cases to po­lice.

The sheer num­bers of po­ten­tial vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors to the num­ber of mem­bers out­strips those of the Catholic Church and ex­poses it to fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion un­der the re­dress scheme of pos­si­bly $132 mil­lion.

But Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses, which has al­most 68,000 mem­bers, has not in­di­cated whether it will sign up for the re­dress scheme. In­stead, it has be­gun re­ar­rang­ing its fi­nances and le­gal en­ti­ties.

Since the an­nounce­ment of the royal com­mis­sion in 2012, Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses has:

RE­STRUC­TURED its le­gal char­i­ties and en­ti­ties. GROWN from a hand­ful of char­i­ties to 836 sep­a­rate small ba­sic re­li­gious char­i­ties (766 ac­tive now) listed as reg­is­tered on De­cem­ber 3, 2012, on the Aus­tralian Char­i­ties and Not for Prof­its Com­mis­sion (ACNC) site. Small ba­sic re­li­gious char­i­ties are not re­quired to pro­vide fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion.

AP­PEARS to have had only one char­ity (the Watch­tower and Bi­ble & Tract So­ci­ety of Aus­tralia Ltd) sup­ply­ing fi­nan­cial re­ports to ACNC. MADE a loan of about $6 mil­lion, with no short-term re­pay­ment plans, to the UK In­ter­na­tional Bi­ble Stu­dents As­so­ci­a­tion IBSA (listed in UK IBSA 2015 ac­counts). RE­PORTED to the ACNC $150 mil­lion in in­come for that char­ity since 2014. SUB­MIT­TED Watch­tower fi­nan­cial re­ports to the ACNC stat­ing it is op­er­at­ing at a loss in 2018 and 2019 af­ter mak­ing sur­pluses in the pre­vi­ous three years.

BEEN re­ported to the re­dress scheme, by whistle­blow­ers, as al­legedly sell­ing off more than $24 mil­lion in re­lated prop­er­ties since 2012.

When con­tacted, Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses said: “We have con­sid­ered your re­quest, but as the ques­tions ap­pear to be based on fac­tual in­ac­cu­ra­cies and in­cor­rect as­sump­tions, we re­spect­fully de­cline to par­tic­i­pate.”

Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses was asked to state the in­ac­cu­ra­cies and in­cor­rect as­sump­tions but did not re­spond.

Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses child­sex abuse sur­vivors Lara Ka­put and Steven Un­thank, who founded web­site SaySorry.org, have tried un­suc­cess­fully to alert au­thor­i­ties, in­clud­ing the fi­nan­cial watch­dog Aus­trac and the Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice, amid grow­ing fears the de­nom­i­na­tion is at­tempt­ing to dodge its obli­ga­tions to vic­tims. A spokes­men for Aus­trac and the AFP said the agen­cies would not con­firm nor deny spe­cific ac­tiv­ity they may be un­der­tak­ing.

“Not only have they (Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses) not joined the Na­tional Re­dress Scheme but they ap­pear to be en­sur­ing they can say they don’t have enough money for any re­dress,” Ms Ka­put said.

“The au­thor­i­ties have re­ally let us down.”

Fam­i­lies and So­cial Ser­vices Min­is­ter Se­na­tor Anne Rus­ton said from July 1, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment would “name and shame in­sti­tu­tions and con­sider fi­nan­cial sanc­tions such as re­vok­ing char­i­ta­ble sta­tus” if they did not join the scheme.

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