Australian cult leader Rocco Leo in Vanuatu land grab

Australian doomsday cult leader Rocco Leo has visited Vanuatu several times to get villagers to donate their land as a safeguard against the apocalypse he says is coming.

Australian police are pursuing Leo, the leader of Agape Ministries, a heavily-armed cult based in South Australia, that says followers must move to Vanuatu before the end of the world, which he predicts will happen in 2012.

Last year, Leo, his girlfriend Marie Veneziano and her brother Joe visited Vanuatu’s Santos island province, a 40-minute flight north of the capital Port Vila, and approached numerous people trying to broker land deals.

A local entrepreneur, Kenneth Iad, said in Santos he was the driver who ferried the trio around the island for meetings with various villagers.

“He called himself ‘Pastor Rock’ and he was here several times, everyone got to know him,” Iad said.

“He told me God gave him the gift for healing and God told him to find a place to build a church for people to get healing.

“I took him all over the island to different people to talk about finding a place for his mission.”

But Leo, described as a “charming and charismatic, fast talking preacher” was irked by the villagers’ reluctance to part with their land.

Another Santos businessman who wished to remain anonymous said the visiting group had created a “sensation”.

“We’ve had to work very hard to convince our workers that this guy ‘Pastor Rock’ was a conman because he created quite a lot of excitement about his claims he was from God and could heal people.”

Vanuatu, a tax haven and popular Pacific tourist spot, is also home to the Prince Philip Movement, a cargo cult that started up in the 1950s in the southern island of Tanna.

Followers believe Queen Elizabeth’s husband is a divine being who will soon return to their village.

– Source / Full Story: Aussie cult leader Rocco Leo in Vanuatu land grab, Ilya Gridneff in Santos, Vanuatu, AAP via the Herald Sun, May 27, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog
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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday May 27, 2010.
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