’60 Minutes’ kidnapping drama: Children’s father reveals why he took the kids; child recovery agency blames rival for failed operation

By @chelean on
60 Minutes kidnapping
Members of Australian "60 Minutes" television crew greet Australian Sally Faulkner, the mother of the al-Amin children, in the presence of Australian reporter Tara Brown, upon their release from Lebanon's Baabda Prison for women, Lebanon April 20, 2016. Reuters/Mohamed Azakir

The “60 Minutes” crew including reporter Tara Brown have been freed from a Lebanese jail after the charges against them over their involvement in a child recovery operation have been dropped. The drama isn’t over yet as the children’s father reveals why he took their kids, and the agency claims a rival group tipped them off to the authorities.

Four members of the news crew and Australian mother Sally Faulkner had been arrested along with members of the Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI) by the Beirut police earlier this month after attempting to snatch Faulkner’s two children off a street as part of a child custody recovery operation.

They spent two weeks in custody until the children’s father, Ali Elamine, agreed to drop the kidnapping charges against Faulkner, Brown and the TV crew, which included producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Benjamin Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment. Elamine, however, will proceed with the charges against the CARI members.

The “60 Minutes” crew and Faulkner were released Wednesday afternoon. Brown, Williamson, Ballment and Rice flew out of Lebanon on Thursday, while Faulkner remains in the country for custody arrangements of her children.

It was claimed that the Nine Network made a million-dollar deal with Elamine to drop the charges, though it did not include in the negotiation CARI’s British Australian boss, Adam Whittington, and British national Craig Michael, as well as two Lebanese men who assisted them. Whittington and Michael are still in jail.

Jealousy and rivalry

On its Facebook page on Thursday, CARI blamed a rival child recovery group for the botched April 6 operation.

“It has come to our attention that one of our competitors has actively undermined this operation by passing on confidential information. These malevolent actions have resulted in the detention of those involved,” the statement reads.

Whittington and Michael’s lawyer also blasted Nine Network for not including the two in the deal.

“Ethically, it wasn’t appropriate for Channel Nine to arrange for a deal and not include the man they asked to execute for them something,” lawyer Joe Karam told reporters (via SMH).

The father’s revelation

Elamine has been portrayed as the villain in the media, something that he couldn’t decipher why. He said he was just protecting Noah, 4, and Lahala, 6, the best way he knew how. He told the “Kyle and Jackie O” show on Thursday that he was concerned with Faulkner’s parenting style.

“I saw a few things happening in regards to Sal’s parenting and decided it was best for the kids to stay with me,” the American-Lebanese father told the radio show hosts.

When pressed for clarity, Elamine said Lahala once told him, “Mummy’s friend keeps sleeping in the same bed as us.”

The children didn’t know their mum was jailed, though, and Elamine wanted to keep it that way. “I didn’t tell them anything about what really happened. I told the kids that mummy surprised them and that her friends were strong, I don’t want them to know she was in jail.”

Elamine also denied he received millions from the deal with Nine. He did not get paid anything, “not a dime,” he said.

Faulkner and Elamine are separated but not divorced.

Nine launches internal investigation

Nine Network boss Hugh Marks, meanwhile, has announced a review of the fiasco. The investigation will be headed by former executive producer Gerald Stone, and carried out by former “A Current Affair” boss David Hurley, as well as the network’s legal adviser Rachel Launders.

“It is important to reiterate that at no stage did anyone from Nine or 60 Minutes intend to act in any way that made them susceptible to charges that they breached the law or to become part of the story that is Sally’s story,” Marks wrote in an email to staff (obtained by Mumbrella).

“But we did become part of the story and we shouldn’t have.”

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