SPAIN’S most shadowy religious sect is in danger of imploding.
It comes after its ‘pope’ fled the barbed-wire compound near Sevilla to set up a new life with his girlfriend Nieves.
Describing the Palmarian Church as a ‘sham from the beginning’, Gines Hernandez – aka Pope Gregorio XVIII – is now living ‘in sin’ in a village in the Sierra Nevada.
The former holyman, who has been the leader since 2005, admitted published texts such as the ‘arrival of the Antichrist’ in 2012 were ‘lies’.
Followers of the sect, that the Olive Press investigated in 2011, fear that his proclamations may spell the end of the religion.
The fiercely orthodox Catholic faction formed in 1976 near the village of Palmar de Troya, lives off million-euro donations from its loyal followers.
Its bizarre rules include the banning of jeans, no trousers for women, no swimming, trips to the beach and even listening to music.
Followers are even banned from talking to anyone who doesn’t fit the dress code.
Hernandez claims have opened a massive can of worms for the 5,000-strong religion, after leaked documents suggested it was involved in alleged tax evasion.
The documents show that some €2 million had been donated from followers in the USA, Switzerland and Germany, which may not have been declared.
“Hernandez knows there has tax evasion and a mafia involved in money-laundering,” said Father Damasco who left the sect and now lives in Ireland. “It’s time for Hacienda to investigate.”
Hernandez, who is currently living in Monachil, near Granada, rejects all accusations that he stole €2 million from the church through donations.