Sunday Mail

Jehovah’s ‘hiding money’

Sex-abuse victims attack evasive actions

- 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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