Cult leader Rocco Leo’s extradition from Fiji not likely, says Police

Australian Police are not looking to extradite fugitive cult leader Rocco Leo from Fiji, after he was arrested a week ago.

AdelaideNow reports:

A police detective told media at a press conference this afternoon they will reconsider at a later date whether to or not.

“It’s the call of the Fijian authorities as to whether or not they (Rocco Leo and associates) are breaching any immigration laws or not,” Detective Superintendent Jim Jeffery said.

“If Fijian authorities determine that they are going to deport Rocco Leo we will execute that (arrest) warrant and if Rocco Leo is deported back to Australia we will extradite him from whatever state it is back to SA to put him before the courts.”

Mr Jeffery said the prime focus of the investigation was currently on missing person John Mouhalos who has not been seen since May 2010.

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:

The charismatic head of the Agape Ministries of God, girlfriend Mari Antoinette Veneziano and her brother, Joseph, are being held by Fijian immigration authorities for breaching their visas and are now facing deportation.

Leo and Mari were arrested at the former Tiri Villas eco-resort in Pacific Harbour, 35km from the Fijian capital of Suva, after a team of police and immigration officers raided the gated complex by sea last Sunday.

Joseph surrendered to police on Tuesday after two days in hiding. Leo, who has not been seen since SA police raided his Adelaide church properties in March last year, appears to have been operating his cult from the secured compound for some time, with its occupants telling locals the complex is now a church.

A 15m yacht was moored at the front of the compound. Police believe Leo and his followers have been using the boat to travel between various Pacific Islands to avoid detection. [...]

If Leo is deported to Australia, he will be arrested upon arrival. The Venezianos will be questioned by police over the financial activities of the embattled Agape church, which has been the subject of a Major Fraud Investigation Section inquiry and court actions for the past 14 months.

The Sunday Mail can also reveal that an arrest warrant was taken out against Leo in Adelaide Magistrates Court on May 31 in connection with 126 fraud charges.

That warrant cannot be executed in Fiji because there is no extradition treaty in place. Leo will be charged with 117 counts of deceiving another to benefit self and nine counts of aggravated deceiving another to benefit self.

The alleged offending occurred between March 2006 and October 2008 and involved about $200,000 that had been given to Leo by fellow cult members for a specific purpose, but which he had allegedly diverted for his personal use.

Read the full report by Nigel Hunt.

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