Agape Cult members settle their differences

Adelaide Now, Australia/May 7, 2012

A fugitive cultist and his disgruntled former believer have settled their $876,000 lawsuit - including an unpaid toilet paper bill - out of court.

Lawyers for Agape Ministries cult leader Rocco Leo and Adelaide businessman Martin Penney today told the District Court they would withdraw their lawsuits against each other.

Mr Penney had claimed that, while a member of Agape, he spent $250,000 of his own money on "daily incidentals" for the cult, including toilet paper.

He further asserted he bought the cult a $42,000 Ford Fairlane and donated $217,000 in cash during his time as a member.

In all, Mr Penney claimed Leo's stories of poisoned microchips, government beheadings and South Pacific island refuges duped him into parting with $876,000.

Today, Leo's lawyers attended court in person while Mr Penney's filed documents by e-mail.

Both sides told Master Mark Rice they had negotiated an end to their lawsuits and would withdraw them.

Leo's counsel said the necessary documents would be faxed to their client for his signature.

Master Rice ordered Leo's assets be unfrozen once the settlement papers had been lodged with the court.

However, he warned that "unfreezing order" related only to Mr Penney's case.

Leo is still being pursued for $420,000 by former follower Sylvia Melchiorre, while the Australian Taxation Office wants $4.1 million after stripping the cult of its tax-exempt status as a religion.

In January last year, the Holden Hill Magistrates Court issued an arrest warrant for Leo after he failed to answer assault charges.

In June 2011, Fijian authorities located Leo and his inner circle - siblings Joseph and Mari Antoinette Veneziano - in a former resort complex on the island.

One month later, then-Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Pallaras, QC, said Leo would not be criminally pursued over the discovery of guns and 35,000 rounds of ammunition on cult property.

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