Agape Ministries of God:
Agape leader Rocco Leo 'tried to hide $5.6m' alleges Australian Taxation Office
Sean Fewster, Court Reporter
December 03, 2010
FALLEN religious leader Rocco Leo tried to funnel $5.6 million out of the Agape Ministries empire just before his assets were frozen, a court has heard.
Australian Taxation Office lawyers today outlined "a very crude attempt to hide" millions of dollars received by the controversial group.
They told the District Court that, in May, Leo juggled $5.6 million between his account and those belonging to Agape and his business, Universal Holdings.
The Advertiser understands the ATO will allege that money was destined for an off-shore account.
Leo, his confidantes and their multi-million dollar, two-state empire are embroiled in three lawsuits and a criminal prosecution.
One former parishioner is suing the group to recover a $1.2 million donation he made after hearing Leo's tales of human micro-chipping and concentration camps.
Leo has counter-sued, claiming the man owes him $730,000.
Another former believer, who claims Leo promised to heal her disability on his private South Pacific island, wants her $420,000 donation refunded.
Leo has offered to repay the woman $290,000 "as a sign of good faith".
The husband of a third parishoner has filed assault charges against Leo relating to an alleged Adelaide Airport altercation.
Leo's counsel says he will return to Adelaide in January to face court.
Finally, the ATO is seeking a decade of unpaid taxes from Agape, having removed its tax-exempt religion status.
It says Agape, Leo and his friends owe $4 million for 2009/10 alone.
Today Richard Ross-Smith, for the ATO, said Leo had made two inter-Agape transfers in May, soon after the former parishoners filed their lawsuits.
He called it a "very crude attempt to hide money".
"There was a transfer out of Agape's account to his own, and then to that of Universal Holdings, for $1.2 million," he said.
"There was another transfer, done the same way, for $4,431,000."
Mr Ross-Smith said the money remained in Australia because of a freezing order made by the court in August on behalf of the former parishoners.
He asked for new, additional freezing orders on Leo and all other defendants.
Judge Wayne Chivell imposed the orders, and adjourned the case until next year.
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