Court overrules Jehovah's Witnesses' real estate transaction


Before this, the Ulan-Ude organization transferred its real estate to Spaniards.

Baikal Daily, 27 March 2019


A court ruled to be invalid an agreement of donation of immovable property of a local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses of the city of Ulan-Ude (the organization is forbidden in Russia) in favor of a similar religious confession in Spain. The pertinent decision was issued by an arbitration court of Buriatia on 25 March, satisfying a lawsuit by the inter-regional territorial department of Rosimushestvo in Irkutsk oblast, the republic of Buriatia, and the Transbaikal territory against Spanish Jehovah's Witnesses.


As Baikal Daily reported, in the summer of 2017 the Russian Supreme Court ruled the Jehovah's Witnesses to be an extremist organization and liquidated and banned its activity on the territory of the country. A total of 395 divisions were closed, including those operating in Buriatia. The Jehovah's Witnesses were operating in an organized manner in Ulan-Ude, Gusinoozersk, and Severobaikalsk. In addition, there were small unregistered groups in villages and settlements of the republic. According to estimates by representatives of the organization itself, it has 600-800 adherents in Buriatia; the larger portion lives in Ulan-Ude. A service in the so-called Kingdom Hall on Trubacheev Street drew on average about 300 persons.


After the liquidation of the Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the country, there began widespread transfers of real estate to their associates abroad. They hoped in this way to avoid confiscation of property as state income. Such countries as the U.S.A., Sweden, Denmark, and Spain were specified in donation agreements. The Ulan-Ude organization "donated" its property specifically to Spaniards.


After reviewing materials, the arbitration court of Buriatia ruled this deal to be null and void.


"It was established that, despite the fact that the agreements of donation contain an indication that the agreements are viewed by the parties also as a transfer-receipt action of items of immovable property, in fact the transfer of items from the religious organization to the defendant did not occur. The buildings were not released from the ownership of the religious organization. The religious organization continued to occupy and use the property under the very same conditions as it occupied and used it when it was the owner. In addition, the defendant is not registered on the territory of the Russian Federation and it does not conduct activity in the Russian Federation; it does not have a representation with the possibility of actually executing the aforementioned deal for alienation of immovable property. The parties carried out only a formal execution of the deal for appearances," trial materials say.


The arbitration court of Buriatia ordered that the property is subject to conversion to the ownership of the Russian Federation. Thereby, the following are transferred to the state:

--land parcel of total area of 1017 sq. m. on Trubacheev St, building 59A;

--nonresidential building of total area of 244.5 sq. m. on Trubacheev St., building 59A;

--land parcel of total area of 202 sq. m. in the city of Gusinoozersk, Gorky St., building 13B;

--land parcel of total area of 798 sq. m. in the city of Gusinoozersk, Gorky St, building 13A;

--nonresidential building of total area of 169.2 sq. m. in city of Gusinoozersk, Gorky St., building 13.  (tr. by PDS, posted 28 March 2019)

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