NEW YORK—On Thursday, May 3, 2018, the Saint Petersburg City Court will hear an appeal from Jehovah’s Witnesses against a ruling to confiscate their former national office in Russia.
If the appeal is denied, the State can seize the 14-building complex immediately. The property spanning some 25 acres (10 ha) is valued at about $31.8 million (2 billion rubles).
The original ruling by the Sestroretskiy District Court in December 2017 ignored evidence that the Witnesses’ office is owned by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (WTPA), a nonprofit corporation based in the United States.
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Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia transferred the property to WTPA in 2000, and WTPA has since paid some $3 million (188 million rubles) in property taxes to the Russian Federation. Although the Russian government recognized the legal transfer for over 17 years, the district court now asserts that the WTPA’s ownership contract is invalid.
Consequently, the court declared the Witnesses’ Administrative Center (AC) in Russia as the actual owner. Since the AC was liquidated by the Supreme Court in 2017, if the Witnesses lose the upcoming appeal, the decision is enforceable and the State can seize the property immediately.
Hearings will be held at 11:30 a.m. in the Saint Petersburg City Court, ul. Basseynaya, 6, St. Petersburg, Russia.