Cult leader Rocco Leo uses Skype to instruct new lawyers
Sean Fewster, Court Reporter
June 30 2011
CULT leader Rocco Leo has dodged financial doomsday by staging a last-minute courtroom resurrection.
The District Court last week gave Leo - leader of the Agape doomsday cult - eight days to hire new lawyers and contest lawsuits filed by disgruntled parishoners.
The Australian Taxation Office says Agape owes it $4 million
It warned that, if he failed to do so, it would award the former devotees a total of $1.9 million in damages.
On Sunday, SA Police revealed Leo - who is wanted on assault charges - and his inner circle had been arrested in Fiji for allegedly overstaying their visas.
Today, lawyer Bridget Morris appeared in court and announced she would be acting for Leo and Agape Ministries from now on.
"We've been getting instructions directly from the defendants via Skype," she said.
"But as I've been overseas myself, I'm not aware of his (arrest) situation."
Former parishioners Martin Penney and Silvia Melchiorre claim they were duped into giving Agape $1.2 million and $420,000 respectively.
They say Leo told them Earth's population would be impregnated with tiny microchips holding their personal information.
Leo, they claim, said anyone who refused the chip would be branded a terrorist and be gassed or beheaded in government-run camps.
Mr Penney alleges Leo warned those who chose to be micro-chipped also would die from slow-release poison in the devices.
Court documents show the Agape empire spans two states, eight properties and 13 vehicles.
Its funds are in 10 accounts, and all of its assets are frozen by court order.
The Australian Taxation Office says Agape owes it $4 million, and Leo juggled $5.6 million among accounts in a "crude attempt" to hide wealth.
Today, Ms Morris told the court she had been instructed to contest not only the lawsuits, but also the freezing order.
"We are considering making an application to vary its breadth and scope," she said.
"The assets that are frozen are worth millions of dollars - these (lawsuits) are nowhere near that level."
She asked for an eight-week adjournment to file new paperwork, but Master Mark Rice refused.
"This has been put off for a long time, and the court has been messed around for weeks, if not months," he said.
He ordered the parties file further documentation prior to a court hearing in two weeks.
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