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Lawsuit for return of property confiscated in Communist age Meat Scandal

An heir of the entrepreneur sentenced to death in the 1960s “Meat Scandal”, an infamous economic scandal of the Communist-era Poland, has sued the State Treasury demanding return of the judicially confiscated real and movable property then owned by the defendant and his family.

The businessman was summarily sentenced to death in 1965. He was deprived the right to appeal and his lawyers did not receive justification of the judgment. Apart from condemning the man to death, the court ordered confiscation of all his assets. State authorities who enforced the decision seized not only the defendant’s property but also that of some of his family members. In 2004 the conviction was revoked in its entirety by the Supreme Court due to a gross abuse of procedural rules.

Following the quashing of the sentence, an heir of the sentenced entrepreneur has been unsuccessfully attempting to have the confiscated property returned. In 2014, he requested the State Treasury to commence settlement negotiations, but this failed to bring expected results.

“In consequence, the heir of the convicted man decided to bring a claim against the State Treasury, relying on article 192 of the Criminal Enforcement Code (CEC), the provision that enables an owner to demand the return of confiscated property if a judgment that ordered the confiscation is revoked”, HFHR lawyer Marcin Szwed says.

One of the key legal problems in the case is the statute of limitations of claims under art. 192 of the CEC. The article itself is silent on the limitation period, and contains a general reference to the provisions of the Civil Code. “The consequences of such a reference are unclear as the code establishes both the general 10-year period of limitations for civil claims and a three-year period, which applies to compensatory claims in tort”, Mr Szwed explains. Neither jurisprudence nor legal scholarship gives a clear-cut solution to this problem.

The case has been accepted by the HFHR Strategic Litigation Programme. The claimant is represented by Dr Wojciech Marchwicki of Wardyński i Wspólnicy, acting pro bono.

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