Lawyers chase cult leader's assets
February 22, 2013
Christian sect the Jehovah's Witnesses - with 64,000 active 'disciples' in Australia - are a cruel religion with no soul, according to Melbourne cultbuster Raphael Aron.
His warning comes as the federal government considers tightening the definition of a charity to prevent some cults and quasi-religions keeping their tax free status. Independent senator Nick Xenophon has renewed calls for a national cult-busting agency.
Leo's lawyers proposed to ... allow about $1,000 per week for 'modest' living expenses for Leo.
Lawyers are still trying to have the assets unfrozen of fugitive cult leader Rocco Leo.
They have argued in the Adelaide District Court he needs to be allowed to pay his legal bills.
The former Agape Ministries leader, who is believed to be in Fiji, has been sued by a former parishioner and the Australian Tax Office.
They are seeking about $3 million.
Leo's lawyers proposed to sell several properties to raise enough funds to start payment and allow about $1,000 per week for 'modest' living expenses for Leo.
But the plaintiffs argued it would not be enough and access was needed to assets including a church building and a bank account with about $6 million in it.
Leo's lawyer Sam Doyle said his team had given up on efforts to negotiate an outcome with the Tax Office and the former parishioner, Silvana Melchiorre.
Judge David Lovell questioned whether mediation could be attempted, but Mr Doyle said he was pessimistic.
Judge Lovell said he had a "simplistic notion" about the direction of the case.
"It would be nice if everyone gets paid," he said.
But Mr Doyle said the Tax Office wanted its money now.
Assets of $11m
Mr Doyle detailed the frozen assets to the court.
Leo and his wife Assunta owned properties at Kuitpo and Campbelltown in South Australia, worth about $1.5 million combined.
Rocco Leo was the sole owner of two properties in Victoria, at Sunshine and Keilor Downs, worth about $900,000 combined.
The court was told the Agape church at Oakden in Adelaide was worth about $1.35 million.
An account with the Commonwealth Bank held about $6 million, but lawyers for Leo said some of that money was tied up with other church members.
Leo's lawyer said his client has another $500,000 in personal accounts.
Mr Doyle concluded about $11 million of assets were caught up in freezing orders.
The lawyer representing the Deputy Tax Commissioner, Stephen Linden, said the tax office would "not be precluded from taking action it considers appropriate" on outstanding debts.
He explained there were other matters the tax office was looking into, including with Assunta Leo.
Mr Doyle suggested a payment of $1 million could be made to help the process.
Leo's lawyers said any property sale could be complicated given Assunta Leo still lived in one of the properties.
The Tax Office told the court there were proceedings in the wings against her.
The case was adjourned for a fortnight.
Disclaimer:This news page is about groups, organizations or movements, which may have been called "cults" and/or "cult-like" in some way, shape or form. But not all groups called either "cults" or "cult-like" are harmful. Instead, they may be benign and generally defined as simply people intensely devoted to a person, place or thing. Therefore, the discussion or mention of a group, organization or person on this page, is not necessarily meant pejoratively. Readers are encouraged to read widely on a topic before forming an opinion. Never accept information from a single source at face value. This website only holds a small amount of information and should not be relied on as a complete source. For example, if you find older information, this should be weighed up against newer information as circumstances can change.