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 say only impeachment can ensure that witnesses are not affected.

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 the plaintiffs told The Associated Press that the charges did not relate to any of the Sobansky family’s property.


Sobansky was helping many related and unrelated people, also living abroad, through the process of reclaiming property in Poland and restoring their family property seized by the Communists, who nationalized the estates of aristocratic families and estates in the capital, Warsaw.

Sobansky denies the charges, and his family and lawyers say it is unfair to keep him in pretrial detention for months.

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 laid siege while prosecutors pursue allegations of usurping someone else’s inheritance rights, worth 20 million zlotys ( $5 million) by purported 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 that it is no coincidence that they were targeted shortly before the Polish government introduced new legislation restricting the rights of former property owners and their descendants to reclaim property seized by the country’s former communist regime.

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

Prosecutors insist there is no connection between the arrests and the new 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.


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.

The long road is full of obstacles, 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 ties at all. The latest legislation puts an end to all claims by closing off the possibility of reversing administrative property decisions that are more than 30 years old.

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