April 17, 2016
Source: The Australian
Adam Whittington, the chief planner of the failed abduction of Sally Faulkner’s children, is poised to present documentary evidence to a Beirut court today that directly links two payments from Channel Nine to himself.
In an explosive revelation, Mr Whittington has told The Australian he has receipts of two payments coming straight from the Channel Nine accounts department. Mr Whittington said he received two internet transfers of funds from the Nine Network several months ago: the first for 40 per cent of the agreed fee of more than $115,000, and then a second for the remaining 60 per cent.
He said the money was for the planning and recovery of three-year-old Noah and five-year-old Lahela from their southern Beirut home so they could be returned to their mother Sally Faulkner.
“It was direct from Channel Nine, it was from their accounts department and they paid it in two instalments,’’ Mr Whittington said from behind a heavily meshed door at the Baabda detention centre in Beirut at the weekend.
“I have the receipts and internet payments; for them (Channel Nine) to claim they weren’t involved is a joke.’’ Ms Faulkner’s lawyer, Ghassan Moghabghab, told The Australian yesterday that “Sally has no money’’, when asked if she had been an intermediary between Channel Nine and Child Abduction Recovery International.
The distinction is critical because if the “recovery’’ payment came straight from Channel Nine it implicates the television station directly in the failed snatch.
However, if Channel Nine paid Faulkner for the story, the network could argue it had no control over how she used the money and were on the scene only to report the news.
Channel Nine last night declined to comment on the allegations.
Mr Whittington’s claims come as relationships between all of those involved in the botched operation at a southern Beirut bus stop on the morning of April 6 have begun to disintegrate, with lawyers for Channel Nine and Ms Faulkner appearing to distance themselves from Mr Whittington’s company Child Abduction Recovery International.
Weekend talks regarding the custody of the children also ended without resolution, with Ms Faulkner’s lawyer, Mr Moghabghab, suggesting that any new deal-making was not between his client and Channel Nine, but between the children’s father Ali Al-Amin and Channel Nine.
He said this might be happening “not between the lawyers but another level’’.
Mr Moghabghab said Ms Faulkner had agreed to relinquish custody, but was told by Mr Al-Amin’s lawyer: “We are not in a hurry to talk about this.’’
There are also new allegations that Ms Faulkner’s estranged husband Mr Al-Amin had been cognisant of the kidnapping plans after being tipped off by a confidante of Ms Faulkner.
In addition to Mr Whittington’s claims, the court has already received another witness statement from one of those arrested that the detailed operation was directly paid for by 60 Minutes.
Also read: 60 Minutes crew detained in Beirut paid $120,000 to a child recovery agency which ‘faked’ success stories on Facebook
At the moment three different accusations against those involved in the Beirut incident have been lodged with the prosecutors: from the police, from Mr Al-Amin and also from Ms Faulkner’s former mother-in-law Ibtissam Berri, who claimed she was hit in the head with a gun during the botched abduction. The recovery crew has disputed this.
Mr Moghabghab will today ask the court to release Ms Faulkner on bail and to consider the operation as a family custody matter rather than a kidnapping. But talks broke down over the weekend although Mr Moghabghab said Ms Faulkner had agreed to all of the custody requests demanded by Mr Al-Amin last week.
The claims against the 60 Minutes crew (Brown, producer Stephen Rice, sound man David Ballment and cameraman Ben Williamson), the CARI operatives (Whittington, his tattoo artist former client Craig Michael), and two Lebanese security personnel (Mohammed Hamza and Khaled Barbour) are problematic. Judge Rami Abdullah has already warned that he believes a crime has been committed and that he was keen to find out which Channel Nine official had signed off on the assignment.
Lebanese legal experts have warned that the accused may face many days in detention — even in the best-case scenario if the charges are eventually dropped — as Justice Abdullah would generally take up to a week and a half to come to a decision of this nature. The influx of 1.2 million Syrian refugees into Lebanon has placed severe strain on the judicial system leading to delays.
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