Legal Battle Over Historic Property: Czech Court Upholds Denial of Liechtenstein Noble Family’s Claims

Brno, Czech Republic – October 19, 2023 – The Liechtenstein noble family heirs’ quest to reclaim their historic properties in South Moravia, including the UNESCO-listed Lednice and Valtice chateaus, suffered a setback as the Brno regional court of appeal upheld the earlier verdict that ruled in favor of the Czech state and various institutions, asserting that they are not obligated to return the properties.

This legal dispute stems from the Breclav District Court’s previous dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation, which had demanded the return of the family’s property, contending that it was being unjustly utilized by the state.

The origins of the Liechtenstein family’s loss of these properties can be traced back to 1945 when they were expropriated based on the post-World War II Benes decrees.

The Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation, represented by its defense lawyer Ales Linhart, expressed their intent to file a petition for an appellate review with the Supreme Court following this latest decision.

The foundation initiated a legal battle by filing lawsuits in 26 Czech district courts at the end of 2018, with one of them being the Breclav court. In these legal proceedings, the foundation argued that the last holder of the family estates in the Czech Lands, Franz Joseph II, was a citizen of neutral Liechtenstein, not Germany, and was the head of a sovereign state. Consequently, the foundation asserted that the confiscation of the family’s property was unlawful.

However, historical records suggest that Prince Franz Josef II of Liechtenstein (1906-1989) declared his German nationality during the 1930s, leading to the forfeiture of his property to the state after World War II, as per administrative authorities in 1945.

Ales Linhart, the foundation’s defense lawyer, remarked, “We are not surprised by the court’s decision. The courts are still ruling in basically the same way and do not want to hear our arguments. We plan a petition for an appellate review with the Supreme Court as in other cases.”

In response to the ongoing legal disputes, the foundation has filed eight constitutional complaints and intends to submit more if the Supreme Court continues to rule against them.

Michal Ruzicka, a spokesperson for the foundation, stated, “It has been obvious for a long time that it does not matter how many Czech courts now rule in favor of the Czech state. The dispute will be decided at the international level because there have been and are serious violations of fundamental rights in the proceedings that took place in the Czech territory.”

This legal battle involves 14 state-run institutions, including Czech Forests, the National Heritage Institute, the Morava River Basin Management, and the Czech Nature and Landscape Protection Agency, who were named defendants in the lawsuit at the Breclav court.

Despite the variety of claims, the Liechtensteins have yet to secure a legal victory in any of their lawsuits, including their case at the Constitutional Court, which ruled against them in May concerning real estate in the Kolin area, now owned by state companies.

The Liechtenstein family, one of the wealthiest aristocratic families in the region, possessed extensive property, particularly in Moravia, where they resided for centuries. They owned a significant amount of property, including the UNESCO-listed Lednice and Valtice chateau complex in South Moravia, near the Austrian border.

During the interwar period of Czechoslovakia, the family lost two-thirds of their property due to land reforms, and the remainder was confiscated after World War II under President Eduard Benes’s decrees, which allowed for the seizure of property belonging to collaborators, traitors, ethnic Germans, and Hungarians. These decrees served as the basis for the expulsion of these groups from Czechoslovakia. The Liechtensteins have consistently argued that the expropriation of their property was unjust.

Article by Prague Forum

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