Fugitive cultist Rocco Leo’s messenger tells tax debt judge that wrong decision will result in divine retribution from God

The Advertiser, Australia/March 8, 2017

By Sean Fewster

Fugitive cultist Rocco Leo has warned a Supreme Court judge that acting against him will result in divine retribution, saying the hand of God will “come down on his head”.

Justice Martin Hinton yesterday ordered Leo to attend court in person if he wanted to stop Agape Ministries’ remaining $9 million being handed to the taxman.

If he returned to Adelaide, Leo — who is in Fiji — risks being arrested on an outstanding warrant for allegedly assaulting a parishioner’s husband.

In response, the cult’s Adelaide “messenger”, Kathryn Conder, told the court her leader could not afford airfare and was unlikely to come — then delivered a message on his behalf.

“Pastor Rocco wants it to be understood that the decisions that are to be made here are decisions that are made for all of Australia,” she said.

“Pastor Rocco is a man of God and he’s telling you that, if someone makes a decision against whomsoever is a man of God, they will personally see the hand of God move.

“So it’s really important that people understand that to try to fight against the hand of God is futile.

“To make a wrong decision, well, the judgment of God can come down on a person’s head that very day.”

Justice Hinton said he understood the message — but it changed nothing.

“The Bible has many things to say, also, about tax collectors who are owed money,” he said.

“In accordance with the law of this country, we will determine what they are owed, and the Pastor has to attend court.

“That’s the way in which justice is done.”

Agape came to public attention in 2010 when a police raid of its SA properties discovered weapons, ammunition and detonators.

Authorities froze its financial empire as its strange doctrines of human microchipping, global armageddon and South Pacific refuge were uncovered.

Leo fled Adelaide, alongside his inner circle, and took up residence in Fiji.

By 2014, the cult was thought to have been dismantled by lawsuits and liquidators.

Last year, however, the ATO uncovered a further $9 million in assets and sparked a three-way war between it, Leo’s inner circle and a group of self-described former Agape parishioners.

One of those plaintiffs is Ms Conder’s husband, Kevin Michael Conder while two others, Raphael and Patricia Azariah, publicly swore loyalty to Leo in 2010.

In January, a Sunday Mail investigation revealed another plaintiff, Lorenzo Lettieri, was still financing the cult through charity bingo nights in the Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland.

On Wednesday, lawyers who had been acting for Agape and for the parishioners sought, and were granted, permission to withdraw from the case.

Agape’s former lawyers said they had incurred debts in excess of $100,000 and had never spoken to Leo, dealing only with Ms Conder.

Ms Conder confirmed that was true, saying she corresponded with Leo’s inner circle via an Adelaide post office box and a DHL courier service to Suva.

“There are no resources (to come back), they have had their funds frozen for seven years, they’ve borrowed money to get to this point,” she said.

“It’s not a position they want to be in, having outstanding debt ... there’s no one to borrow money from.”

Justice Hinton said the matter had to resolve.

“I say this to you as the messenger: It cannot go on this way,” he said.

“They either attend or they send a lawyer ... it’s unfair to you, and it’s not appropriate, that you come (to court) as their spokesperson.

“If they do not turn up next month, whatever position the ATO urges upon me will be taken.”


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