Descendant of Polish nobles imprisoned in the property restitution case

Descendant of Polish nobles imprisoned in the property restitution case

Warsaw A Warsaw court on Tuesday confirmed the arrest warrant for a Polish businessman from a Polish aristocratic family, in a case that highlights the problems still caused by the communist regime’s seizure of private property after World War Two.

Michal Sobanski, a 46-year-old businessman, has been held in isolation in a prison in the western Polish city of Wroclaw since June. The Warsaw Appeals Court rejected his lawyer’s appeal against provisional detention, meaning Sobansky must remain in prison until December 20, while the investigation continues. Prosecutors argued that only impeachment ensured that there was no effect on witnesses.

Prosecutors in Wroclaw say they have charged Sobanski with crimes related to property valued at 44 million zlotys ($11 million) while he acted as a “broker” for his clients for a “commission”. A spokeswoman for state attorneys general told The Associated Press that the charges did not relate to any of the Sobansky family’s property.


Poland is the only country in Central Europe that does not have legislation regulating the return of property confiscated before World War II to its owners or their heirs. Instead, the original owners and their heirs were required to file their claims through the Polish courts.

Sobansky was helping many related and unrelated people, also living abroad, bypassing the process of reclaiming property in Poland, collecting documents, and sometimes documents of the 19th century, recovering their family property seized by the Communists, who nationalized the estates of aristocratic families and real estate in Warsaw, the capital .

Sobansky denies the charges, and his family and lawyers say it is unfair to keep him in pretrial detention for months. He remains in detention despite his extensive explanations and the massive bail and guarantees given by hundreds of people.

He is under constant surveillance, the lights are lit every 30 minutes at night, and he has only 5 minutes a day to call family. His relatives say his asthma is getting worse.


His sister Isabella Boninska, who admitted that “someone may have already been omitted, perhaps there were things arising from a pure lack of knowledge” in Sobansky’s “enormous sense of wrong and unfairness”.

But she described her brother as an “exceptionally honest person” who was “courageous in his activity” and noted that he bears the consequences.

In a related case, a scion of another aristocratic family in Poland, Adam Zamoyski, a 72-year-old Polish-British historian, had his passport taken and his property frozen while prosecutors pursue allegations of usurping someone else’s inheritance rights, worth 20 million zlotys (5 million). dollars), through a forged will.

“I can’t wait to get into court and refute everything,” said Zamoyski, who received medals for his decades of service to Polish culture. He spoke to the AP from his home in Poland, saying he was forced to cancel work commitments and medical appointments in London.


Both Zamoyski and Sobansky’s lawyers, Jan Medlowski, believe it is no coincidence that they were targeted shortly before the right-wing government in Poland introduced new legislation restricting the rights of former property owners and their descendants to reclaim property seized by the former communist regime.

“This new law went into effect and hundreds of clients, whom he was helping, were denied the freedom to express their opinions,” Boninska told The Associated Press.

The law also affects some Holocaust survivors and their descendants, sparking a diplomatic row with Israel, even though the majority of property seized by the Communists before the war was owned by Polish Christians.

Prosecutors insist there is no connection between Sobansky’s arrest and the new law.

All of this comes at a time when Poland’s justice system is at the center of the struggle between the right-wing government and the European Union, which sees the government’s actions undermining Poland’s justice system and the rule of law.


The 11 counts of alleged crimes in the Sobansky case carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors allege that Sobansky, and some others, used forged documents or certificates to obtain from the state the redemption of real estate throughout Poland, with the exclusion of some heirs.

A foundation set up by Sobanski promotes Polish culture and purchased Polish art from South America to give to state museums.

“He’s a great patriot and it’s a shame,” Zamoyski said.

Boninska said the challenges of the recall process and reports of wrongdoing made the word “response” sound “like a curse.”

The road is long and complicated, especially for those who live abroad. In rare cases, the infractions have allowed speculators to take ownership of real estate with which they had no previous links. Recent Polish legislation has closed off the possibility of reversing administrative property decisions that are more than 30 years old.

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