Agape Ministries of God:
SA bikie laws may apply to cults
Sydney Morning Herald
May 25, 2010
Parts of South Australia's anti-bikie laws could be used against cults like the Agape Ministries group, South Australian police commissioner Mal Hyde says.
Two people have been arrested and charged with firearms offences after police raided properties connected with the religious group, where offices seized explosives, guns and 80,000 rounds of ammunition.
Mr Hyde described the amount of ammunition which was found hidden inside bed frames and in shipping containers, as extraordinary.
He said it might be possible for aspects of the anti-gang laws, which relate to criminal organisations, to apply.
"People were concerned that the legislation was designed to target only bikies but we've always said it should be targeted at organised crime and dealing with crime, whether or not they ride a bike," Mr Hyde told ABC radio on Tuesday.
"So parts of it could be relevant and there's one component which allows for a declaration to be made for a criminal organisation.
"How it might ultimately work out and whether it applies in a situation like the Agape cult, time will tell.
"But there's a potential there. You would have to find substantial evidence of criminal behaviour to support any application for a declaration.
"It certainly wouldn't happen overnight."
Police are yet to speak with Agape Ministries leader Rocco Leo but said earlier this week they knew of his whereabouts along with his two key assistants.
With much of the ammunition and weapons found in shipping containers, officers believed the Agape leaders were planning to move their organisation offshore.
Investigations also centred on concerns that followers had donated large sums of money, with the core group of about 40-60 members selling up their houses and businesses and handing over the proceeds.
The group was understood to believe that the world will end in 2012 and South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he warned the state government about the cult a month ago but got little response.
On Friday he called for the group's assets to be frozen and for tougher laws to deal with cults.
© 2010 AAP
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