Ex-doomsday followers fight for money back
July 7, 2010
One of two civil claims brought against religious group Agape Ministries may be settled out of court, a lawyer has told the Adelaide District Court.
One of the plaintiffs cannot be named because of a temporary suppression order.
That plaintiff and another former church member, Martin Penney, are suing pastor Rocco Leo and two of his associates, Joe Venziano and Mari-Antionette Veneziano.
They want their money back, claiming they handed over more than $400,000 and $1 million respectively to the church based on lies about a doomsday scenario.
A lawyer representing both plaintiffs, David Riggall, told the hearing it was possible the suppressed case may be resolved without going to trial.
"We've had some discussions with my friend (lawyer for the defendants Craig Caldicott) and it's possible there may be some resolution capable of being achieved," he said.
A freezing order was previously made on all Australian assets belonging to the defendants after Mr Riggall flagged more potential civil claims.
Relatives of church member Raphael Azariah, who is allegedly part of Rocco Leo's inner circle, attended the latest court hearing.
His mother, Lesley Baligod, and his brother, Joel Baligod, told the ABC they intended being at every hearing to support the plaintiffs.
They said Raphael Azariah was also a victim of the church and they wanted to see that the plaintiffs got their money back.
"We see him as a victim," Ms Baligod said.
"I don't have any qualms with by brother," Mr Baligod said.
"I just want him to make contact with us. I still love him and regard him as family but he seems to shun the outside world out as if they are the enemy."
Ms Baligod said she believed many other people wanted to come forward with civil claims, but were scared.
"A lot of them have been threatened by insiders, with death threats as I understand it," she said.
The matter will be back in court in 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.