Fugitive cult leader Rocco Leo hires lawyer via Skype

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Cult leader Rocco Leo has dodged financial doomsday by staging a last-minute court room resurrection over Skype.

Court reporter Sean Fewster at The Advertiser says:

The District Court last week gave Leo – leader of the Agape doomsday cult – eight days to hire new lawyers and contest lawsuits filed by disgruntled parishoners.

It warned that, if he failed to do so, it would award the former devotees a total of $1.9 million in damages.

On Sunday, SA Police revealed Leo – who is wanted on assault charges – and his inner circle had been arrested in Fiji for allegedly overstaying their visas.

Today, lawyer Bridget Morris appeared in court and announced she would be acting for Leo and Agape Ministries from now on.

“We’ve been getting instructions directly from the defendants via Skype,” she said.

Leo is being sued by two former church members who claim they donated large sums to the church under false pretences.

He has been on the run from authorities in Australia for more than year since police raided several properties linked to Agape Ministries.

The Australian Associate Press writes

Police are waiting to hear if Leo will be deported so they can arrest him on a warrant alleging 126 counts of fraud, which would also allow him to face the civil action from his former parishoners.

The civil case came before the District Court on Thursday with former followers Martin Penny and Silvia Melchiorre claiming they were duped into giving Agape more than $1.5 million between them.

Court documents allege Leo told followers world governments would try to microchip people to control them and behead or gas anyone who refused.

Lawyers for Leo asked for more time to defend the action and said they would also consider challenging court orders freezing Agape’s assets.

The case will return to the District Court in July.

Earlier it was reported that Australian Police are not looking to extradite Leo since there is no extradition treaty between Fiji and Australia. Instead they are waiting to see whether Fijian authorities will deport him.

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This post was last updated: Jun. 30, 2011