60 Minutes case in Lebanon: Adam Whittington to be released anytime now


July 16, 2016

Source: heraldsun.com.au

THE disastrous 60 Minutes child-snatch operation that has laid waste to families, reputations and budgets is almost over after a Beirut court ordered former Australian soldier Adam Whittington be freed on bail.

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Mr Whittington, whom 60 Minutes paid $115,000 to mastermind a failed plot to seize two Australian children off the streets of Beirut on behalf of their mother, Brisbane woman Sally Faulkner, will be released any time now.

His lawyer, Joe Karam, lodged his US$20,000 bail, raised through an online support network, and yesterday took release papers to Lebanon’s Aley Prison.

“What happened is that the court decided on bail for everybody,” Mr Karam said, referring to Mr Whittington and three others who have been remanded with him since April.

“Bail will be provided, everyone will have a process with Immigration and they will be released.”

Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes remains accused of abandonment after it paid to rescue its own reporting team, headed by Tara Brown, but left Mr Whittington behind in prison along with his British-Cypriot accomplice, Craig Michael.

Mr Michael, and Lebanese men Khaled Barbour and Mohammed Hamza, will be released when and if they raise bail.

Mr Michael is accused of pushing the grandmother and grabbing the kids along with another member of the team, Scorto Boghdan, who fled and has not been arrested.

Mr Barbour was the driver employed by Mr Whittington, and Mr Hamza set up a safe house to hide the children.

60 Minutes’ plans for a ratings winner turned to debacle when, in shocking scenes captured on street TV, Mr Whittington’s men bowled over the children’s grandmother on a busy roadside and bundled the kids into a van.

Mr Whittington’s Child Abduction Recovery International Group moved into action at 60 Minutes’ behest after Ms Faulkner went to the program hoping they could help pick up the tab to recover her children, Lahela, 5, and Noah, 3.

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Ms Faulkner’s estranged husband Ali Elamine failed to return the children after she sent them to Beirut to visit him.

Mr Whittington, who holds dual British-Australian citizenship and would still face kidnapping charges if he returns to Lebanon, is expected to depart for Sweden to reunite with his wife Karin and two sons.

“We can now advise that Adam has finally been granted bail and is now able to return home to Karin and the boys. This is great news,” stated his Facebook supporter group.

60 Minutes has paid up to $2m to untangle themselves from the mess, including a reported $500,000 to Mr Elamine to drop charges against its crew.

Most damaging, Ms Faulkner won her freedom by permanently surrendering all custody rights to her children to her ex-husband.

Mr Whittington, who may never enter Singapore again after a similarly bungled child-snatch operation in 2014, is unlikely to work as a recovery expert again.

Ms Brown, sound recordist David Ballment, cameraman Ben Williamson and producer Stephen Rice all spent a short spell in prison until they were released, but Rice took the fall and was dismissed.

In a letter from prison, Mr Whittington accused Channel Nine of minimising its role in events.

“I honestly don’t know what is more disgusting, the inhumane conditions in the dungeon I have been in for 40 days, with no sunlight and rats running around me at night, or hearing all the statements Channel 9 have made to the media,” he wrote.

Mr Whittington’s mother Georgina said the first time she had heard from Nine was after her son’s bail news came through — they rang her asking for an interview. It was denied.

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60 ‘stolen’ custody kids stuck overseas last year


April 25, 2016

Source: The Australian

Fewer than half of the 114 children taken from Australia during custody disputes in the past fin­ancial year have been returned, despite appropriate action having been taken under The Hague convention.

Figures from the Attorney-General’s Department show Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner’s case is one of many involving children removed from the country by one parent against the other’s will.

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Of the 114 children removed from Australia, only 54 have been returned. A bill that would have criminalised the retention of children overseas in defiance of Family Court orders has been bouncing between parliament and the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee for at least five years.

The Family Court can intervene only in cases pertaining to countries that are signatories to The Hague convention, which is why Lebanon — not a signatory — is often the country of choice for parents who want to flee. Such was the case with Ms Faulkner, whose children were taken to Lebanon by their Lebanese-American father, prompting Ms Faulkner to launch a botched counter-abduction with the assistance of the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes.

Foreign Prisoners Support Service director Martin Hodgson, who helped win journalist Peter Greste’s freedom in an Egyptian court case, said yesterday he had represented two Australian women whose husbands fled to Lebanon with their children. “Lebanon is a safe harbour for this issue (custody),” he said. “It’s much easier (for women) to get redress in Saudi on custody than it is in Lebanon.”

International parental child abduction has proven a difficult problem for Australian politicians since the issue first came before the Senate committee in August 2011. Debate about what to do has been going on for so long that five of the six senators who sat in on original committee hearings are no longer in parliament. The one who is — Michaelia Cash — was not available for comment yesterday on why reform had taken so long.

Mark Furner, who sat on the committee — he is now an MP in the Queensland parliament — said he still supported the new laws, which would have made it a crime for a parent not to return their child when ordered by the Family Court.

A spokesman for Attorney-General George Brandis said yesterday the government was “considering its recommen­dations and continues to consult with stakeholders”.

In the two weeks since the Faulkner case exploded, another two cases of parental abduction have come before the Family Court. In the first, a mother known only as Ms Padwa has been ordered to return her six-year-old daughter to the father, in The Netherlands. The child was born in The Netherlands, but raised partly in Indonesia. Her ­father is Dutch, her mother is ­Indonesian and the case came ­before the Australian Family Court only because the mother is now married to an Australian.

In a second case, the chief executive of an international company has been ordered to send his two sons back to Sydney from New York. The father, known in court documents as Mr Bondelmonte, flew the boys, aged 15 and 17, on a business-class trip to Manhattan in January, then wrote an email to his former wife saying they all wanted to stay.

The court heard the older boy was “estranged from his mother and, at his request, has not had any contact with her since the end of September 2013”. The court also saw emails from the younger boy saying he wanted to stay in New York because it’s “awesome”. The mother told the court she “struggled financially and could not compete with the largesse the children enjoyed with the father”.

The court found the father was “flouting the court’s order and even acting in a manner to challenge the court’s authority”.

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