60 Minutes crisis: Nine bats away ‘child stealing’ jibe, stays mum on lawyer’s claim it paid for abductions


Desperate family members of the 60 Minutes team held in Beirut have confronted Channel Nine executives as the child snatching drama enters its second week, amid claims that the network indirectly funded the botched child snatching attempt. ​

According to a report of Wednesday’s meeting, the wife of one crew member asked Nine chief executive Hugh Marks: “Since when is Channel Nine in the business of child stealing? Is that what we do now?”

But the network has rejected the claim, made in News Corp newspapers, with a Nine spokeswoman insisting: “That was just not said.”

Overnight, the ABC reported that Australian mother Sally Faulkner paid for the botched rescue of her two young children from their father using money which came from 60 Minutes.

In another, unsourced, development the ABC has reported that Ms Faulkner will agree to give up sole custody of her children – granted to her by the Family Court in Australia – if her children’s Lebanese father, Ali Elamine, agrees to drop the charges.


 Ms Faulkner, 60 Minutes journalist Tara Brown and her crew – cameraman Benjamin Williamson, sound recordist David Ballment and producer Stephen Rice – are being held in Beirut after a failed attempt to retrieve Ms Faulkner’s children Lahala, 6, and Noah, 4, last week.The Nine spokeswoman said that Wednesday’s boardroom gathering was a “broader” meeting that included extended family members of the 60 Minutes crew.She did not comment on claims from Ms Faulkner’s lawyer Ghassen Moghabghab, reported by the ABC,  that the aborted abduction by British-based firm Child Abduction Recovery International was funded by Ms Faulkner using money paid to her by 60 Minutes.

The spokeswoman also declined to say whether a network manager approved the payment — or the use of the controversial “child recovery agency” — before the 60 Minutes crew flew to Lebanon.

“Our focus is on getting everyone home safely, as soon as possible,” she told Fairfax Media.

“We’re getting great help from DFAT.

“We’re not going to be commenting further at this stage.”

Nine is expected to conduct its own investigation into the incident, which has become a diplomatic and public relations disaster for the network.



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