60 Minutes crew have 'reached a deal' in botched child recovery operation

By Rohan Smith of news.com.au

Charges will be dropped against a Brisbane mum and the 60 Minutes crew involved in a botched kidnapping attempt in Beirut.

News Corp has learned a deal has been reached between Sally Faulkner and her estranged husband Ali Elamine. The deal is believed to involve a catch: Ms Faulkner would give up custody of her two children in exchange for her freedom.

A separate deal between Mr Elamine and 60 Minutes will involve compensation being paid by the network to the father-of-two.

Mr Elamine is believed to be following through with charges against Adam Whittington from Child Abduction Recovery International, whose organisation was paid to execute the kidnapping.

The lawyer for Ms Faulkner, Ghassan Moghabghab, told News Corp on Monday a deal had been reached prior to the parties appearing before a judge. He described it as "very positive".

"Somehow we reached a deal," he said.



A hearing in the matter, originally scheduled for 12pm at Beirut's Palace of Justice, was brought forward for the judge to consider the deal at 11am local time (6pm AEST).

Prosecutors will still have to decide whether to drop the state case against the detainees after judge Rami Abdullah makes his decision.

Judge Abdullah has the power to release the detainees on bail pending the final decision of prosecutors.

Lawyer Joe Karam, for detainee Mr Whittington, also told News Corp he believed a deal had been done involving the childrens' father.

60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown, along with producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment, were preparing to learn their fate before judge Abdullah at Baabda court on Monday afternoon. The hearing was postponed to Wednesday afternoon and judge Abdullah warned the matter was still being treated very seriously.

The Nine Network crew were among nine people arrested over the failed attempt to remove Ms Faulkner's two Australian children, Lahela, 6, and Noah, 4, from the care of their grandmother on April 7.

The 60 Minutes crew (clockwise from top left) Tara Brown, Ben Williamson, Stephen Rice and David Ballment.
The 60 Minutes crew (clockwise from top left) Tara Brown, Ben Williamson, Stephen Rice and David Ballment.

The children were living in Lebanon with Mr Elamine but Ms Faulkner says her estranged husband was keeping them despite a Family Court ruling she had rightful custody.

Whittington, who organised the abduction attempt, said he was paid $115,000 in two payments from the Nine Network. His fate will also be decided by judge Abdullah in Beirut.

Mr Elamine, who runs a surf school in Lebanon, had previously said he was not ready to drop any charges. He said he could not risk the 60 Minutes crew escaping punishment by dropping charges against his ex-wife.

"It's so weird. Sometimes I feel like, yeah, I mean, (60 Minutes) poked their noses into a family/personal issue. It's not like they're going around, fighting terrorism or something," Mr Elamine said.

Sally Anne Faulkner of Australia with her children Lahela aged 6 years (centre) and Noah aged 4 years.
Sally Anne Faulkner of Australia with her children Lahela aged 6 years (centre) and Noah aged 4 years.

He said he had been asked to consider dropping charges but "no one wants to take the blame for anything".

"I don't want Sal in jail, that's for sure ... but I don't think anyone would be asking me to drop the charges if one of the kids got hurt," he said.

Channel Nine's European correspondent Tom Steinfort said he spoke with network boss Darren Wick outside court. He said Mr Wick was waiting for an official ruling from the judge before celebrating.

"He'll believe it when he sees a judge write it down on a piece of paper," Steinfort told Nine News.

Father Ali Elamine leaves court. Photo / Getty Images
Father Ali Elamine leaves court. Photo / Getty Images

- news.com.au

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