July 16, 2016
THE disastrous 60 Minutes child-snatch operation that has laid waste to families, reputations and budgets is almost over after a Beirut court ordered former Australian soldier Adam Whittington be freed on bail.
Mr Whittington, whom 60 Minutes paid $115,000 to mastermind a failed plot to seize two Australian children off the streets of Beirut on behalf of their mother, Brisbane woman Sally Faulkner, will be released any time now.
His lawyer, Joe Karam, lodged his US$20,000 bail, raised through an online support network, and yesterday took release papers to Lebanon’s Aley Prison.
“What happened is that the court decided on bail for everybody,” Mr Karam said, referring to Mr Whittington and three others who have been remanded with him since April.
“Bail will be provided, everyone will have a process with Immigration and they will be released.”
Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes remains accused of abandonment after it paid to rescue its own reporting team, headed by Tara Brown, but left Mr Whittington behind in prison along with his British-Cypriot accomplice, Craig Michael.
Mr Michael, and Lebanese men Khaled Barbour and Mohammed Hamza, will be released when and if they raise bail.
Mr Michael is accused of pushing the grandmother and grabbing the kids along with another member of the team, Scorto Boghdan, who fled and has not been arrested.
Mr Barbour was the driver employed by Mr Whittington, and Mr Hamza set up a safe house to hide the children.
60 Minutes’ plans for a ratings winner turned to debacle when, in shocking scenes captured on street TV, Mr Whittington’s men bowled over the children’s grandmother on a busy roadside and bundled the kids into a van.
Mr Whittington’s Child Abduction Recovery International Group moved into action at 60 Minutes’ behest after Ms Faulkner went to the program hoping they could help pick up the tab to recover her children, Lahela, 5, and Noah, 3.
Ms Faulkner’s estranged husband Ali Elamine failed to return the children after she sent them to Beirut to visit him.
Mr Whittington, who holds dual British-Australian citizenship and would still face kidnapping charges if he returns to Lebanon, is expected to depart for Sweden to reunite with his wife Karin and two sons.
“We can now advise that Adam has finally been granted bail and is now able to return home to Karin and the boys. This is great news,” stated his Facebook supporter group.
60 Minutes has paid up to $2m to untangle themselves from the mess, including a reported $500,000 to Mr Elamine to drop charges against its crew.
Most damaging, Ms Faulkner won her freedom by permanently surrendering all custody rights to her children to her ex-husband.
Mr Whittington, who may never enter Singapore again after a similarly bungled child-snatch operation in 2014, is unlikely to work as a recovery expert again.
Ms Brown, sound recordist David Ballment, cameraman Ben Williamson and producer Stephen Rice all spent a short spell in prison until they were released, but Rice took the fall and was dismissed.
In a letter from prison, Mr Whittington accused Channel Nine of minimising its role in events.
“I honestly don’t know what is more disgusting, the inhumane conditions in the dungeon I have been in for 40 days, with no sunlight and rats running around me at night, or hearing all the statements Channel 9 have made to the media,” he wrote.
Mr Whittington’s mother Georgina said the first time she had heard from Nine was after her son’s bail news came through — they rang her asking for an interview. It was denied.
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