Sect ‘hides its money’
Cash kept from child victims
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 SaySorry.org 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.