Freeze widened on Agape Ministries assets
June 16, 2010
A judge has widened a court order which freezes assets belonging to Agape Ministries.
The order was made on two civil claims before the Adelaide District Court by former Agape Ministries members who want their money back.
The identity of one of the plaintiffs is the subject of an interim suppression order.
Both plaintiffs claim they gave money to the religious group on the basis of false promises.
One of the plaintiffs claims she gave $400,000 and the other claims to have handed over more than $1 million.
Both are seeking their money back, plus an awarding of damages.
Their claims allege the religious group promised them a haven on a South Pacific island, to protect them from microchips the government was planning to implant in all humans.
It claims the religious group told its members they would go to hell if they were microchipped and that the government would put them in concentration camps, gas or behead them if they refused the chips.
The legal claims allege the religious group told members they had to give money to help relocate all members to the island and build infrastructure.
The court previously froze assets valued at $500,000, but the order has now been expanded to all Agape Ministries' assets in Australia.
Lawyer for the plaintiffs, David Riggall, applied for the wider freeze, saying he expected many more claims to go before the courts.
"We suspect there will be a plethora of claims in relation to the matter," Mr Riggall said.
He said the assets should be protected to ensure money would be available for those likely claims.
"There would be a whole load of chickens picking among a relatively small amount of corn," he said.
Craig Caldicott - acting for Rocco Leo, the religious group's leader who allegedly is on the run from authorities - said there had not been any more claims lodged with the court.
Mr Caldicott said the freezing order should only extend to the amount of money sought by the existing legal claims.
Judge David Lovell extended the order to freeze all assets in Australia of the group's leaders, Rocco Leo, Joseph and Marieantoinette Veneziano, until any further order is made.
The matter will return to court next month.
Criminal proceedings are also underway against two alleged members who were arrested for firearms offences after raids on Agape Ministries.
Police allege they seized significant quantities of ammunition, rifles, batons and other weapons in the raids.
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