Australian TV network chose ‘cheaper’ abduction option

A contractor said he negotiated with an Australian television network to snatch two Lebanese-Australian children from their father’s family in Beirut but the network chose a cheaper option.

Col Chapman, who describes himself as a child recovery specialist, said executives at the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes programme told him to “sharpen his pencil” when he quoted them A$150,000 (€101,000) late last year to get the children, Lahala, 6, and Noah, 4, out of Lebanon.

The children’s Australian mother, Sally Faulkner, a four-member crew from Nine, two British agents from the Britain-based Child Abduction Recovery International company (CARI), and two Lebanese men are in police custody in Beirut over a bungled attempt last week to smuggle the children out of the country.

They could be charged within days.

The crew were recording from a car window on April 6 as the two CARI agents grabbed the children from their grandmother and a domestic servant at a south Beirut bus stop.

Mr Chapman said his business, Child Recovery Australia, would never let a media client direct their operations during a child recovery attempt to suit filming priorities and deadlines. “The reason 60 didn’t go with us is we were dearer and we don’t work with media, not in that sense anyway,” said Mr Chapman.

Nine refused to say whether it paid for CARI’s bid to retrieve the children. Ms Faulkner accuses her ex-husband, Ali al-Amin, of taking them from Australia last year without her permission.

She declined to say whether the network had ever been in negotiations with Mr Chapman.

Lebanese authorities had a signed statement from one of the CARI agents in custody that said the network had paid A$115,000 for the operation, Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.

The custody dispute between Ms Faulkner, 29, and her ex-husband has been going on for several years, and Australia media have reported that he took the two children to Lebanon for a holiday last year but did not return.

Lebanon’s state news agency reported that state prosecutor Claude Karam would move forward with his investigation after receiving the police report Monday.

An investigative court will take testimonies from the suspects. They will be allowed translators and lawyers at their hearings, a judicial official said.


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