Fugitive cultist Rocco Leo will not fight ‘noble’ devotee’s lawsuit, claims responsibility for Barnaby Joyce’s affair and other ‘disasters’

The Advertiser, Australia/August 8, 2018

By Sean Fewster

A fugitive doomsday cultist will not contest a lawsuit seeking a share of his last $9 million — provided it is paid to the “noble” woman who said God would smite his enemies.

Rocco Leo — who lives in Fiji in defiance of an arrest warrant — has also taken credit for Australia’s “many catastrophes”, including Barnaby Joyce’s affair with Vikki Campion.

In an online post, Agape Ministries’ messiah-in-exile says everything from “political crisis” to “unseasonably high temperatures” are God’s response to his ongoing persecution.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Wednesday heard Leo had changed his position on the three-year, four-way war for his remaining millions.

Philip Adams, for Kathryn Conder — who last year threatened divine retribution against Leo’s opponents — said the pastor no longer objected to his client’s lawsuit.

“My client sold her worldly possessions for what might be described as a noble purpose … these were her life savings,” he said.

“Pastor Rocco has been quite clear that he does not resist, in any material sense, the assertions made by my client.”

Leo came to public attention in 2010, when SA Police raided Agape’s properties and seized firearms, ammunition and detonators.

As the group’s apocalyptic doctrine became known, Leo and his inner circle fled to Fiji — where, he had claimed, lay an island that would save humanity from Armageddon.

His million-dollar, multistate empire was dismantled by a series of lawsuits and bankruptcy proceedings but, in 2016, a further $9 million was found in a hidden account.

Since then, Leo has fought the Australian Taxation Office and two rival groups of former parishioners for the money.

The ATO says it is owed millions in back-payments, while Leo wants the funds to continue his missionary work in Fiji.

The first group of parishioners include Raphael and Patricia Azariah — who publicly swore loyalty to Leo — and Italian-Swiss businessman Lorenzo Lettieri.

Mr Lettieri, however, operates bingo nights in the Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland that directly fund Leo in Fiji.

The rival parishioners include Ms Conder who, last year told the court any decision against Leo would result in God’s judgment “on a person’s head that very day”.

On Wednesday, Mr Adams said Leo had made out-of-court statements indicating support for Ms Conder and her group.

He said they had given freely to Leo to establish his South Pacific haven from Armageddon.

“Whatever you might think of that, Pastor Rocco accepts entirely that the funds were held for the specific purpose of setting up the mission,” he said.

“That mission has failed, it has patently failed, and we have a forensic accountant who says those funds are isolated and can be specifically traced.

“They are held in trust, Pastor Rocco accepts our assertions … the only party raising any query as to whether those funds should be returned is the ATO.”

Gillian Walker, for the ATO, said the matter was not resolved so easily.

“There’s a fundamental lack of facts in Ms Conder’s claim, nothing about the terms or conditions of any contract,” she said.

“There are no facts asserted that are capable of giving rise to her claim.”

Justice Martin Hinton agreed the situation was difficult given Leo had made only “an out-of-court statement purporting to accept” Ms Conder’s claim.

“Everything would have been much smoother if we had him here,” he said.

He set the matter down for argument in two weeks, ahead of a planned trial in November.

While Leo has been silent in court, he has continued to post on an Agape-affiliated website.

In a post entitled “Why Is Australia Experiencing So Many Catastrophes?”, Leo claims Australia is suffering divine consequences for persecuting him.

He compares NSW and Victorian floods, Queensland’s drought, bushfires and Joyce’s affair to the Biblical plagues that befell Egypt.

“What can be done to persuade God to relent?” he writes.

“Beg and plead with the Man of God — whom God Himself anointed and appointed as His representative — to have him petition God on behalf of those who mercilessly judged him.

“The Man of God is the person who begged and pleaded with the judges to no avail and was condemned despite having provided copious evidence of his innocence.

“For he serves a loving and compassionate God Who did not want to chastise, waiting more than seven years for the persecutors to relent before moving against them.”

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