Tara Brown and 60 Minutes crew released on bail after paying compensation over botched child abduction


April 20, 2016

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Tara Brown and 60 Minutes crew released on bail after paying compensation over botched child abduction – as Sally Faulkner reaches a deal with her estranged husband to secure her freedom if she gives up custody of their two children

  • Tara Brown and 60 Minutes crew are set to be released from Lebanon jail
  • Charges have been dropped over the botched child abduction attempt 
  • Deal has been struck between Sally Faulkner and her ex Ali Elamine 
  • But this could mean Ms Faulkner has to give up custody of her children 

TV presenter Tara Brown and her 60 Minutes crew are now free to leave Lebanon after paying compensation over the botched child abduction.

Tara-Brown-Lebanon

The charges against the TV crew were dropped after Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner reached a deal with her estranged husband Ali Elamine in which she conceded full custody of their children.

Judge Rami Abdullah released the 60 Minutes team on bail, but warned them that they would have to return if prosecutors decided to proceed with criminal charges. 

Ms Faulkner, who spent two weeks inside a Lebanese jail along with the TV crew, is also expected to be set free following the hearing at the Baabda Palace of Justice on Wednesday.

But a British ‘child recovery agent’ and two others implicated in the attempt to kidnap Ms Faulkner’s two children from her estranged husband’s family will remain in the country to face the charges.

Ms Faulkner, Ms Brown and her three colleagues were led into a judge’s office in handcuffs at the Beirut Court on Wednesday.

The crew, which includes 60 Minutes producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment, were told they must pay compensation by 2pm Beirut time.

Nine says the crew could be on a flight back to Australia as early as tonight.

Prosecutors still have to decide whether to drop the state case against the detainees, so the nightmare may not yet be over, according to local lawyers.

Judge Abdullah told the court on Wednesday that if the TV crew do not return, they will be dealt with in ‘absentia’.

Mr Elamine’s lawyer Hussein Berjawi said the father dropped the charges against his ex-wife at the request of their two children.

Faulkner-Tara-Lebanon

‘It’s because she is the mum of his kids,’ Mr Berjawi said. ‘It’s based on the request of the children he will ask for her release.’

On Monday, Mr Elamine admitted that the young children ‘want their mum’.

The father also told the judge that he decided to drop the charges against the TV crew because they were ‘just doing their job’.

Ms Faulkner and the TV crew were arrested two weeks ago after a child recovery team seized her children from Mr Elamine’s family on a Beirut Street.

They have spent the past two weeks behind bars and were facing charges of kidnapping and being members of a criminal gang, which can attract maximum sentences of up to 10 years.

These charges against the TV crew have been dropped, but members of the child recovery agency hired for the operation are believed to still be facing charges.

This means the future is uncertain for Craig Michael and Adam Whittington, who are both part of a child recovery agency.

Ms Faulkner’s lawyer Ghassan Moghabghab told AAP that the warring couple negotiated an agreement which could mean the Brisbane mother’s ex-husband Ali Elamine gets full custody.

When Mr Moghabghab was asked whether the deal involved a payment to Mr Elamine, he replied: ‘For my part it does not involve money, I don’t know about the other party (the Nine Network).’

Speaking earlier on Wednesday, Mr Moghabghab claimed Mr Elamine was holding out for money as part of a deal to ensure Ms Faulkner isn’t formally charged with kidnapping

‘He is waiting for money. Everything Ali is doing leads to one conclusion, that he is aiming for money,’ Moghabghab told News Corp.

Mr Elamine has previously denied claims that he wants compensation, telling reporters that ‘money is not an issue’.

Ms Brown and Ms Faulkner made a brief appearance before a judge at the Baabda Palace of Justice on Monday before the hearing was postponed.

Judge Abdullah adjourned the matter so lawyers for Ms Faulkner and Mr Elamine could continue talks.

The lawyers have been discussing custody arrangements for the two young children who were allegedly taken on holiday to Lebanon by their father but not returned to Ms Faulkner as agreed.

The lawyer said that Mr Elamine took the two children on a three-week holiday to Lebanon and did not return them as agreed.

But an attempt to snatch them from a suburban Beirut street by a ‘child recovery team’, caught on CCTV, was ultimately unsuccessful.

Adam-Whittington-Lebanon

Also read: Agent at centre of 60 Minutes fiasco – who makes a living snatching other people’s children – is devastated he will miss his OWN son’s birthday as he’s locked in a Lebanon jail.

The children were returned to their father and the 60 Minutes team were arrested.

Craig Michael and Adam Whittington, believed to be members of the child recovery agency hired for the operation, were also arrested.

Whittington claims he has receipts showing that Nine made online payments totalling $115,000 to him for the planning of the operation and recovery of the children.

‘It was direct from Channel Nine, it was from their accounts department and they paid it in two instalments,’ he told The Australian.

Nine has refused to comment.

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60 Minutes: Nine paid me in two instalments, says Beirut snatch planner Adam Whittington


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.

Child-Abduction-Recovery-International-Adam-CARI

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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Beirut police arrest Australian mother and TV crew on kidnapping suspicion


April 7, 2016

Source: theguardian.com

An Australian woman who allegedly orchestrated the abduction of her children from their Lebanese father, and an Australian TV crew who police believe were there to film the incident, have been arrested in Beirut.

Sally-Faulkner-Lebanon

A British man who was also detained by the Lebanese police is believed to be the captain of a yacht that was moored near Beirut’s Movenpick hotel, preparing to sail away with the children, police sources said.

The detained film crew, including Tara Brown of Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program, were in custody on Thursday and being interrogated by internal security forces investigators.

The children, identified as Lahela al-Amin, six, and her four-year-old brother, Noah, have been returned to the custody of their father, Ali al-Amin, the Lebanese police said.

Lebanese police sources said they believed the Nine Network team had planned to film the kidnapping of the children and their return to the mother, identified in Australian media as Sally Faulkner. The police source told the Guardian officers believed the TV crew was sympathetic to the Australian mother’s cause and had intended to film the kidnapping to publicise the case in Australia.

“They planned to show it in Australia as if it was an operation to save the children, as if they were doing a good thing,” a police source told the Guardian on condition of anonymity.

“The woman made an agreement with the 60 Minutes program from Channel Nine to come help her recover her children from Lebanon,” a security source told Agence France-Presse.

In a tearful interview before the incident, Faulkner told Channel Nine’s A Current Affair her husband had taken the children on a holiday to Lebanon before deciding that he would not bring them back to Australia. But Amin denied any wrongdoing in an interview with local TV.

“They are saying that they were trying to recover the children from their father, as if I’m a criminal or something,” Amin said. “What they are saying in their media over there is untrue. I left Australia with the knowledge of security agencies and I didn’t kidnap anyone.”

Earlier on Thursday, Lebanon’s police force said that three armed individuals aboard a silver Hyundai had snatched the two children while they were waiting with their grandmother for their school bus in the neighbourhood of St Therese in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

Australian consular officials had visited the reporter and TV crew, AAP reported. Channel Nine said officials had reported the 60 Minutes crew were in good physical health, but the team had not had access to a lawyer.

Earlier, the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, said Australian authorities had been in contact with Channel Nine and had offered “all appropriate consular assistance”

Read more here: 60 Minutes crew detained in Beirut paid $120,000 to a child recovery agency which ‘faked’ success stories on Facebook

 

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