14 Jan 2003

Group rumoured to be a cult leaves Samoa

4:30 pm on 14 January 2003

A group living at a resort in Samoa, and which became embroiled in controversy after claims it was a religious cult, is reported to have left the country.

The group was supposed to have leased the Sinalei resort for 12 months but the Samoa Observer says it had gone after six months.

The owner of the hotel, Folasaitu Joe Annandale, has declined to give an explanation for the group's early departure.

The group had gone to the resort seeking an "atmosphere ideal for creativity" but a group member who left early claimed in a newspaper interview last month that their practices were questionable.

Duane Reed said they were part of a cult called the Maha Devi Ascension Movement.

The claims had been denied by the group, the resort management and the Samoa Government.

The Government revealed that an Interpol check cleared the group's identity and showed they were artists as claimed.