Australian police are hunting three leaders of an international religious group after raids in Adelaide uncovered a stash of guns, detonators and ammunition.
South Australian fraud investigators are also examining payments from members who gave money to Agape Ministries International.
Police say there is no evidence the group is a Doomsday cult but allege the group was amassing weapons and planning to move to a Pacific island.
Twelve properties linked to the group have been raided, including one at Mount Magnificent south of Adelaide.
Four men from South Australia have been charged with firearms offences and will appear in court at a later date.
Detective Superintendent Jim Jeffrey from the South Australia Police’s Commercial and Electronic Crime Branch says it is unknown why the group was stockpiling weapons.
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“We know that there’s suggestions and by the looks of the shipping container they were having plans to relocate overseas, but of course we don’t know the reasons for stockpiling weapons or why they were secreting ammunition inside those containers,” he said.
“Located within a shipping container on that property was prohibited weapons – extendable batons, slow burning fuses, detonators and detonator cords.
“There was also about 20,000 rounds of ammunition, some of which is high-powered and that ammunition was hidden within the steel frames of some bed heads.”
Police say the group was also amassing money, collected from more than 50 of its members.
“The ministry’s built up a substantial amount of funds and those funds have been obviously provided by its membership or by its followers by selling up their properties or by pledging funds to that church,” Detective Superintendent Jeffrey said.
“Obviously the aspect of the inquiry now is to ascertain whether those funds have been used by the ministry as per the expectations of the people who have given them the money.”
Agape Ministries International is listed on the Australian Business Register as a charitable institution.
The ABC has tried to call the Agape Ministries centres listed in South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia but was unable to contact anyone.
(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
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Topics: Agape Ministries
This post was last updated: May. 20, 2010