We didn't pay ransom for Wiig and Centanni, says Fox

Fox News today said it did not pay a US$2 million ($3 million) ransom to secure the release of New Zealand cameraman Olaf Wiig and American colleague Steve Centanni.

Internet news site WorldNetDaily.com (WND) said Palestinian terror groups and security organisations in the Gaza Strip received US$2 million from a US source in exchange for the release of Centanni and Wiig, who is married to Britain-based New Zealand broadcaster Anita McNaught.

The pair, both working for Fox News, were snatched by gunmen on August 14 by a previously unknown group calling itself the Holy Jihad Brigades. They were released 13 days later

Fox News president Roger Ailes today said claims Fox paid US$2m in hostage money were "absolutely false".

"Not a cent of hostage money was paid, and it was never considered," he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark was involved in efforts to free Wiig and Centanni, calling Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and sending diplomats and a police officer to Gaza City.

Helen Clark said at the time that, as a matter of record and practice, the New Zealand government never got involved in paying ransoms.

WND said a senior leader of one of the groups suspected of the abductions had confirmed money was received from a US source, but could not identify which organisation or government entity transferred the cash.

Officials associated with President Abbas' Fatah party had also confirmed money was paid for the release of Wiig and Centanni.

A source at Fox News reportedly told WND that many parties were involved with freeing Centanni and Wiig, and it was possible money was paid.

- NZPA

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