Court orders Agape cult bank records, strips tax exemption

Agape Ministries has been stripped of its legal status as a religion, lost its tax exemption and will be sued by the Federal Government for a decade of unpaid debt.

The District Court yesterday gave the nation’s banks 72 hours to hand over all records concerning alleged cult leader Rocco Leo, his wife, his closest confidants and the two-state empire he controls.

The Advertiser has learnt those records are essential to the Australian Taxation Office’s efforts to calculate the former church’s total debt, which could exceed $1 million.

Yesterday Richard Ross-Smith, for the ATO, said his client had taken action without informing Leo, whose lawyers this week claimed he would return to Adelaide in January to face assault charges.

Though Leo’s whereabouts are unknown, it is believed police had searched for him in Fiji and Vanuatu.

The Advertiser understands the ATO filed its action against Agape and Leo on November 12, soon after revoking the group’s tax-exempt status.

That means Agape is no longer considered “a religion” nor “a charity” for legal purposes.

– Source / Full Story: Court orders Agape cult bank records, strips tax exemption, Sean Fewster, The Advertiser, Nov. 20, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

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This post was last updated: Friday, November 19, 2010 at 6:59 PM, Central European Time (CET)