Sect ‘hides its money’

Cash kept from child vic­tims

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - NATALIE O’BRIEN

SE­CRE­TIVE Chris­tian sect Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses has been ac­cused of sell­ing off as­sets and push­ing cash off­shore to avoid pay­ing Aus­tralian child sex abuse vic­tims.

For the first time, the com­plex web of le­gal en­ti­ties ob­scur­ing the true wealth and fi­nan­cial ac­tiv­i­ties of the group can be ex­posed — and that its char­ity sta­tus may be re­voked if it does not sign up to the Na­tional Re­dress Scheme.

The spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion also re­veals the fail­ure of au­thor­i­ties to look into al­le­ga­tions by whistle­blow­ers that JW may be hid­ing its money be­fore the June 30 dead­line to join the scheme.

It 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. WA ac­counts for 137 of them. But there is no ev­i­dence the sect 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 the church, which has al­most 68,000 mem­bers in Aus­tralia, has not in­di­cated it will sign up for the scheme. In­stead it has be­gun re­ar­rang­ing its fi­nances and le­gal en­ti­ties.

Child sex­ual abuse sur­vivors Steven Un­thank and Lara Ka­put, pic­tured, founded the web­site in the hope of hold­ing Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses or­gan­i­sa­tions ac­count­able.

The Vic­to­ri­ans have spent years pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion to po­lice, gov­ern­ment, in­quiries, law firms, and the me­dia about the church.

Ms Ka­put re­cently sup­plied prop­erty sales data to the Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Na­tional Re­dress Scheme, which she says shows more than $24 mil­lion in sales by JW linked en­ti­ties since the royal com­mis­sion was an­nounced and that sales were ac­cel­er­at­ing in re­cent years. But the Com­mit­tee has ad­vised it has no power to in­ves­ti­gate or re­fer the in­for­ma­tion for in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Not only have they (JW) not joined the 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. We need to fo­cus on what is hap­pen­ing here in Aus­tralia.” The Je­ho­vah’s Wit­ness or­gan­i­sa­tion’s of­fi­cial po­si­tion is that it will not pro­tect any per­pe­tra­tor.

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