Cult leader arrested in Fiji

2011-06-26 09:32

Sydney - An Australian doomsday cult leader who disappeared 13 months ago after police found weapons stockpiled on his Adelaide property has been arrested in Fiji, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

Rocco Leo, 55, head of the Agape Ministries of God, was arrested by Fijian police on visa violations after a dramatic commando style raid on a beachside resort near Suva where he was living with some of his followers, the Sunday Mail said.

Police stormed ashore to raid the gated compound and seized a 15m yacht Leo used to sail around the islands to escape detection, the paper said.

Australian police began investigating Leo and the cult in March 2010 after several members claimed he had taken hundreds of thousands of dollars they had donated and used it for his personal use.

The newspaper said former cult members claimed that Leo, a former brothel owner, had told them the government would microchip their brains and kill any dissidents. He also allegedly told them he needed money to buy a Pacific island for them to build a Christian colony and survive the coming holocaust.

126 fraud charges

The Australian Tax Office said Leo owes 1.75 million Australian dollars. Some members of the church filed suit alleging that Leo owes them a total of 1.9 million Australian dollars. The Sunday Mail said police issued a warrant for Leo's arrest in last month on 126 fraud charges.

Ninety Adelaide police raided Leo's property - a former Adelaide mental hospital - in May 2010 after some followers claimed he was about to smuggle weapons overseas.

Leo escaped, but four men were arrested. Police told an Adelaide court in May 2010 that they had found 20 000 rounds of ammunition, illegal firearms, batons, fuses, detonators and detonator cords.

Government contacts between Australia and Fiji have been strained since Fiji's military coup in 2006, and there is no extradition treaty.

But police were said to be hoping that Leo would be deported back to Australia for the visa violations.

Read more on:    australia  |  security

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