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.

australian_kid_abducted

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”.

Follow our updates on Twitter and Facebook

Testimonials from our clients

profile pic.jpgdroppedImage_7TM

download (2)

ABP World Group™ Risk Management

Contact us here: Mail 

Skype: abpworld

NOTE: We are always available 24/7

Australian actress Eliza Szonert regains custody of child in Malaysia after battle with former partner


December 10, 2015

Source: The Sydney morning herald

Former Neighbours actress Eliza Szonert has snatched her child back from her estranged musician partner in dramatic scenes in a restaurant in Malaysia during an ongoing custody row.

Eliza Szonert

Szonert and her former partner musician businessman Ashley Crick had been embroiled in a row over care of her son while they were staying in Kuala Lumpur – in an incident which had embroiled  Australian consular officials..

Szonert had originally travelled to Malaysia with the child to stay with Mr Crick but then she alleged a disagreement occurred resulting in her being ordered out of their accommodation without the child or her passport.

She sought assistance from the High Commission and also separately from an organisation that helps return children to their parents in custody disputes.

Read: We can recover your abducted child

Assisted by the agency on Thursday morning Szonert took the boy from Crick at a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur’s  Mid Valley Mega Mall.

Video of the incident supplied to Fairfax shows Ms Szonert walking in accompanied by two large men. While the men engage Crick, she then walks around and picks up the child and walks away. The child appears to be distressed and Crick appears unable to act while engaged by the one of the accompanying men.

The video was supplied to Fairfax by the child recovery agency, which asked not to be identified for fear of jeopardising employees’ safety.

Szonert issued a statement after the incident saying she had “safely recovered my child”.

But she said she still did not have any passports for herself or her son, leaving them stranded in Malaysia.

“I am calling on the Australian government to provide all necessary assistance to help my son and I return to Australia,” she said.

Crick, a former international skydiving champion, has previously declined to comment on the situation.

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Department on Wednesday night confirmed it was providing consular assistance to a woman in Kuala Lumpur but declined to provide further details due to privacy obligations. It had not responded to further questions at the time of publishing.

On Thursday, Mr Crick declined to make any comment other than to say he was “very focused on his son’s wellbeing”.

On Wednesday Szonert’s Melbourne-based mother Kay had alleged that Crick had her daughter’s  passport.

Abducted-Child-kuala-lumpur

“I’m worried for her well-being,” she said. “I’m amazed that she has been coping as well as she has. I don’t know for how long, but she doesn’t want to go home without her son.”

Fairfax understands the embassy has made representations over  the passport but is unable to become involved in the custody issue because of legal issues with Malaysia.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Crick, who is an accomplished musician and has played with guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel on tour, has been reported to have been working in Malaysia as the chief technology officer at iflix, a subscription video online platform being rolled out throughout Asia.

In an interview for a trade publication recently, Mr Crick was quoted as saying he was an Aussie “learning the south-east Asian cultural quirks in a town none of us have lived in before, and enjoying it immensely working on a successful little project”.

“I’m loving it in Kuala Lumpur – it’s a beautiful city and great hub in the middle of everywhere we are aiming to be.”

Szonert, 41, played Danni Stark in Neighbours from 1993 to 1996 and appeared in the show’s 20th anniversary episode. She has appeared in the movie The Dish, and had a role in Underbelly, in which she played Trish Moran.

Follow our updates on Twitter and Facebook

Testimonials from our clients

Ironboyzz-FacebookTwitter-Ironboyzz

profile pic.jpgdroppedImage_7TM

download (2)

ABP World Group™ Risk Management

Contact us here: Mail 

Skype: abpworld

NOTE: We are always available 24/7

 

‘If he wants to be a part of my life he can’: Woman who grew up in Australia not knowing she was kidnapped from the U.S. as a baby by her mother meets her biological father for the first time


April 27, 2015

Source: Yahoo, BBC

‘If he wants to be a part of my life he can’: Woman who grew up in Australia not knowing she was kidnapped from the U.S. as a baby by her mother meets her biological father for the first time

  • Samantha Geldenhuys was born in Charleston, South Carolina
  • Her mother kidnapped her and eventually settled in Queensland, Australia
  • Dorothy Barnett snatched her from her father when she was just a child
  • Now Barnett, who was under the alias Alexandria Geldenhuys, is in jail
  • Samantha was born Savanna Todd, but only found out when she was 21
  • Recently she met her biological dad Benjamin Harris Todd III for first time
  • Her step-dad Juan Geldenhuys died a week before Barnett was arrested

A young woman who was kidnapped by her mother as a baby and taken across the world from the US to Australia has spoken about the moment she met her biological father.

Samantha Geldenhuys, born Savanna Todd, recently discovered her mother’s name was not Alexandria Geldenhuys but Dorothy Barnett, and the man she thought was her father was actually her step-dad.

Now, the 21-year-old, who grew up in the beachside suburb of Townsville, has opened up to Channel Seven’s Sunday Night about coming to terms with the shocking news about her mother being an international fugitive, and meeting her biological father for the first time.

‘It was good, it was casual, it was really nice,’ Samantha said of her ‘secret’ meeting with father Benjamin Harris Todd III.

Scroll down for video 

Samantha Geldenhuys, born Savanna Todd, recently discovered the truth about her past and opened up to Channel Sevens' Sunday Night program about her journey

Samantha Geldenhuys on meeting her father for the first time

‘As I said in the courtroom once I have my mother sorted, I have the opportunity to continue my life, and if he wants to be a part of it then he can’, she added.

At the end of last year the young Queensland woman travelled to Charleston, South Carolina where her mother is currently imprisoned.

This followed the moment the Australian Federal Police came knocking on the door of the family home and arrested Samantha’s mother.

That was when the young blonde learned she was the subject of one of America’s longest running child kidnapping cases, and that her mother’s real name was Dorothy Barnett who was an international fugitive wanted by US federal authorities.

Samantha’s father, a wealthy stockbroker, was granted sole custody of her when she was just a young baby, after a custody battle in court where Todd claimed Samantha’s mother Ms Barnett was abusive and unstable.

Samantha's father, Benjamin Harris Todd III, a wealthy stockbroker, was granted sole custody of her when she was just a young baby, and described meeting his now adult daughter as 'wonderful'.

For 20 years Samantha Geldenhuys (pictured) thought she was an ordinary young woman, but then police came and arrested her mother at their Townsville home and Sam learned she was the centre of America’s longest running child kidnapping case and her mum was an international fugitive

Never gave up hope: Savanna's father Benjamin Todd II (pictured with his baby daughter in 1994) never stopped hoping his kidnapped daughter would be found and each year updated her room and made a video for each of her birthdays

Dorothy Lee Barnett pictured with baby Savanna kidnapped her daughter after a bitter custody battle and absconded to South Africa and eventually Australia where she lived as a fugitive under an assumed name until her lie unravelled following a slip of the tongue while drinking with friends

Dorothy Lee Barnett pictured with baby Savanna kidnapped her daughter after a bitter custody battle and absconded to South Africa and eventually Australia where she lived as a fugitive under an assumed name until her lie unravelled following a slip of the tongue while drinking with friends

‘Unfortunately in the absence of knowledge one’s mind can conjure up all sorts of things,’ Mr Todd told Sunday Night, speaking of the two decades he has been without his daughter.

But on an unsupervised visit, Samantha’s mother fled the country with her, first travelling to Asia and South Africa before settling in Queensland, Australia.

‘She just took me and ran,’ Sam told Channel Seven. ‘She started anew just for me.’

It was a lot to take in the blur that followed. Sam’s mother made several appearances during extradition hearings in a Queensland court before Ms Barnett was finally deported to the US and immediately placed in prison.

Channel Seven’s Sunday Night program accompanied Ms Geldenhuys to the US for a tearful reunion with her mother and to attend 53-year-old Ms Barnett’s trial on Parental Kidnapping and US Passport Fraud charges, for which she is now serving prison time.

The only father she knew: Savanna, pictured as a toddler, was renamed Samantha. She is in the arms of the man she thought was her father, her stepfather, Juan Geldenhuys, who later died before Samantha learned the incredible truth about her past

Another life: Samantha pictured with the mother she knew as Alex Geldenhuys, whose real name was revealed as Dorothy Barnett following her dramatic arrest in Queensland last year and deportation back to a US Jail

Another life: Samantha pictured with the mother she knew as Alex Geldenhuys, whose real name was revealed as Dorothy Barnett following her dramatic arrest in Queensland last year and deportation back to a US Jail

Samantha and her real father Benjamin Todd III pictured together just months before Savanna disappeared. Following her parents' separation her father was awarded full custody of Savanna

A still from footage of baby Savanna before her kidnapping by her mother, who was only allowed supervised acess to her daughter after a court case in which Benjamin Todd III alleged Barnett was bipolar

A still from footage of baby Savanna before her kidnapping by her mother, who was only allowed supervised acess to her daughter after a court case in which Benjamin Todd III alleged Barnett was bipolar

Sunday Night tells the story of mystery baby Savanna Todd

While Stateside Samantha also made contact with the friends and family she would have had, had she not been kidnapped by her mother.

Patty Roth, Barnett’s former best friend was particularly emotional about the reunion.

‘She instantly bonded with my girls, and that was special,’ Patty told Sunday Night.

The dramatic events of Sam’s past began on an access visit in 1994, when Dorothy Barnett did not return baby Savanna to Benjamin Todd and the two disappeared.

Todd and Barnett had been engaged in a bitter custody battle, but each side has different reasons for the failure of their doomed relationship.

Benjamin Todd II was a softly spoken ‘southern gentleman’ and classical music lover, the son of a nurse and a doctor from Kentucky who entered a career working at financial management company Merrill Lynch in Charleston, South Carolina.

Dorothy Lee Barnett, had been raised by a single mother and stepfather on welfare, and had travelled extensively, running a piggery in Belize, a jewellery business in Africa, before finally settling for a job as a flight attendant.

Samantha and her mother not long after fleeing. Todd and Barnett had been engaged in a bitter custody battle, but each side has different reasons for the failure of their doomed relationship

Savanna now named Samantha with stepfather Juan and mother Dorothy, now known as Alex, in South Africa

A young Samantha who insists she had a loving, stable upbringing and that her mother was nothing but loving, doting on herself and her younger half-brother, who's father is Samantha's late stepfather Juan

A young Samantha who insists she had a loving, stable upbringing and that her mother was nothing but loving, doting on herself and her younger half-brother, who’s father is Samantha’s late stepfather Juan

Samantha last year after learning the truth about her past

Savanna Todd as a baby with her mother Dorothy before Ms Barnett fled overseas and began living life under the radar until her arrest in Townsville last year

Loving relationship: Barnett and 11-month-old Savanna disappeared and embarked on their lives as fugitives, travelling to Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa where Barnett married Juan Geldenhuys and had a son

When the pair met, and married after a whirlwind romance, Dorothy became pregnant with her daughter.

Dorothy Barnett’s friends told the Seven Network that Benjamin Todd had wanted Barnett to terminate her pregnancy with Savanna in 1993.

But when the marriage failed, it was Todd who gained custody of Savanna following a court case in which he alleged Barnett was bipolar, and she was awarded only supervised access to her baby daughter.

It was on one of these visits Barnett and 11-month-old Savanna disappeared and embarked on their lives as fugitives, travelling to Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa where Barnett married Juan Geldenhuys and they had a son.

Mr Todd's lawyer, J Graham Sturgis told Channel Seven, Benjamin Todd 'never quit' looking for his daughter. 'For years he updated her room to be age appropriate and would record a video message to her on her birthdays,' Mr Sturgis said

Mr Todd’s lawyer, J Graham Sturgis told Channel Seven, Benjamin Todd ‘never quit’ looking for his daughter. ‘For years he updated her room to be age appropriate and would record a video message to her on her birthdays,’ Mr Sturgis said

The couple emigrated to New Zealand, where they gained citizenship, and then Barnett and her children moved to Australia’s Sunshine Coast, where they were known as Alexandria, Samantha and Rhys Geldenhuys.

Juan Geldenhuys died from cancer just a week before ‘Alex Geldenhuys’ was arrested.

It was over evening drinks after a day’s sailing in 2011 that ‘Alex Geldenhuys’ slipped up.

Ms Barnett referred to Samantha as ‘Savanna’ and said she had fled an ‘abusive’ relationship in America.

Barnett’s South African friends went online and found a page on the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children’s website.

They saw pictures of a woman who looked like a younger ‘Alex’ and an age-advanced photo of a girl who resembled Samantha.

They contacted Benjamin Todd III in America. His long hunt for Savanna was over.

Tearful reunion: Samantha speaks on a phone to her mother inside the South Carolina prison where Dorothy Barnett is serving time for her kidnap and passport fraud offences 

Dorothy Barnett cries as she speaks with her daughter in the prison where she is serving 21 months after being deported and pleading guilty to kidnapping her own child from the US in 1994

As Mr Todd’s lawyer, J Graham Sturgis told Channel Seven, Benjamin Todd ‘never quit’ looking for his daughter.

‘For years he updated her room to be age appropriate and would record a video message to her on her birthdays,’ Mr Sturgis said.

‘It is a parent’s worst nightmare not to know what happened to a child [but] he never lost hope and pursued every possibility that might lead to her recovery.’

However, friends of Ms Barnett described Todd as an ‘evil, evil man’ while Barnett herself described his pursuit of her as ‘corrupt’ and ‘criminal’.

Whatever is the truth, the extraordinary story of how Ms Barnett eluded the FBI for two decades, and how her life as a lie unravelled, is said to have ‘deeply confused’ 21-year-old Samantha.

Sunday Night were with Samantha at the prison her mother was being held at when they reuinted

Channel Seven filmed her as she reunited with Ms Barnett in the South Carolina prison where she is serving a 21 month sentence after pleading guilty to one count of International Parental Kidnapping and two counts of False Statement in a Passport Application.

Ms Barnett will be required to undergo two years’ supervised parole following her release.

‘His daughter thus far has been reluctant to meet,’ J Graham Sturgis, told Daily Mail Australia, before the airing of the program.

‘She only knows her mother and the misinformation that has been provided her. She likely would be considered by her mother to be disloyal if she were to meet [Todd] at this time.’

Child Recovery Agents Parental Kidnapping

Mr Sturgis said the intensely private stockbroker understood why the daughter snatched from him and who never knew him as father had held off from speaking with him, and that he feared jeopardising his hoped-for reunion with her.

But Mr Sturgis said Todd yearned for the ‘long awaited opportunity’ of meeting Savanna and had literally counted the days – 19 years, six months and 12 days – from the access visit on which Savanna disappeared to when Australian police knocked on a door in faraway Townsville and his long lost daughter was found.

Follow our updates on Twitter and Facebook

Ironboyzz-FacebookTwitter-Ironboyzz

profile pic.jpgdroppedImage_7TM

ABP World Group™ Risk Management

Contact us here: Mail 

Skype: abpworld

NOTE: We are always available 24/7

Dead mother loses custody fight to Australian ex-husband


February 14 , 2015

A judge ruled in favour of the woman’s ex-husband at a hearing in the Family Division of London’s High Court.
Parental Abduction news

An English mother has a lost a battle from beyond the grave to stop her two children from living with her ex-husband in Australia.

The woman wrote in her will that “under no circumstances” should her daughter, eight, and son, seven, return to their Australian father.

But a judge ruled in favour of the woman’s ex-husband at a hearing in the Family Division of London’s High Court.

The dispute between her parents and ex-husband began after she died in 2014.

Mr Justice Wood was told the couple had married a decade ago and lived in Darwin, Australia.

The woman, who had cancer, travelled to England two years ago with their children.

Her husband agreed to the trip on the basis that she was going for medical treatment and that it was a holiday for the children.

But, without his knowledge, she had taken legal advice and decided that she wanted stay in England with the children.

Mr Justice Wood said in her will she “made it clear” that she wanted her son and daughter to “have little or nothing to do with their father”.

She had written that it would be “extremely detrimental to their lives” if they returned to their father, and said she wanted a friend or a relative in England to bring them up.

‘Left for a holiday’

The father said they should return to him under the terms of the international Hague Convention.

He said they had been born and had grown up in Australia and it was their habitual residence, and he had never consented to them moving to England to live.

The judge agreed and said the man had been misled by his ex-wife and the children had been wrongfully retained by her.

Neither child objected to returning to their father in Australia, he added.

“The children left Australia in July 2013 for a holiday,” the judge said. “They did not say goodbye to their friends, school or neighbours. They left many favoured objects behind them, fully intending to return.”

Follow our updates on Twitter and Facebook

Ironboyzz-FacebookTwitter-Ironboyzz

profile pic.jpgdroppedImage_7TM

ABP World Group™ Risk Management

Contact us here: Mail 

Skype: abpworld

NOTE: We are always available 24/7