Alleged cult leader settles with media powers

BROKE and faced with having to represent herself in a defamation lawsuit against some of Australia's most powerful media organisations, the leader of alleged Burringbar-based cult Universal Knowledge opted to settle out of court.

Natasha Lakaev took to task Fairfax-owned news-paper The Age and News Ltd publication the Gold Coast Bulletin over articles allegedly stating she had led a cult that used mind-control techniques to coerce financial gain from vulnerable members.

In ruling in their favour, Justice Jean Dalton accepted the evidence former cult members Carli McConkey and Michael Greene had given.

She said Ms Lakaev's evidence was "deliberately prevaricating and at times demonstrably untrue" in rejecting her application for adjournment so she could muster the funds to hire legal representation.

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Ms Lakaev, who gave her occupation as "clinical psychologist", could only afford to secure barrister Peter Travis to seek an adjournment to the case - one Justice Dalton said would likely have lasted up to 18 months.

Mr Travis said Ms Lakaev hoped to sell her Burringbar property Omaroo - a 100ha former headquarters for Universal Knowledge at 105 Hunter St - in order to afford adequate representation.

The property recently failed to sell at auction and has been on the market continuously since 2009 for prices ranging between $1.2million and $3.3 million.

The Age journalist Michael Bachelard and former Gold Coast Bulletin reporter Anne-Louise Brown were named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Ms McConkey, an interview subject of the articles, and husband Mr Greene also faced defamation claims over the articles.

Ms McConkey told the court Ms Lakaev's assertion she had only been involved in one prior lawsuit was a lie.

Ms Lakaev said medical issues would make representing herself difficult but did not give any accounts from doctors.

"I had an accident a few years ago and some of my very specific memories from some events aren't there," she said.

Ms Lakaev, who had two of her closest supporters Christopher Wellington and Keicha Adams watching from the public gallery, held her face in her hands as the court denied her application for an adjournment.

Wednesday's sitting lasted only a few minutes, following the previous night's settlement, with Justice Dalton entering judgment in favour of all of the defendants. - APN NEWSDESK



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