60 Minutes case: Child recovery agency claims competitor passed on confidential information about Beirut operation


60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown Brown, centre, and her TV crew, including David Ballment, left, and Sally Faulkner have had the charges dropped and have been released from a Beirut jail. Photo: Nine Network

The child recovery agent who remains in jail over the bungled Beirut child snatch involving 60 Minutes has blamed rivals for tipping off authorities to the plot.

The allegations appeared on the Facebook page of Child Abduction Recovery International, the business run by former Australian soldier Adam Whittington who remains in custody in Lebanon over the failed operation.

Mr Whittington was arrested along with Cyprus based tattooist Craig Michael, two Lebanese men, four members of an Australian 60 Minutes crew and the children’s mother Sally Faulkner after the failed operation.

He was attempting to snatch the two children from the care of their father Ali Elamine and return them to Ms Faulkner.

“It has come to our attention that one of our competitors has actively undermined this operation by passing on confidential information,” the post read.

“These malevolent actions have resulted in the detention of all those involved.

“All parties are aware of this individual’s self serving actions which are nothing short of despicable and were purely designed to bring down one of the most trustworthy reliable and honest organisations operating in this difficult area.”

The post refutes claims his organisation had faked success stories on its website.

In the months before the bungled recovery, Mr Whittington’s website had been aggressively insulting and attacking some of his British-based rivals.

Under a “Warning” heading, the web page named two recovery agents as “con artists” and urged parents not to use them.

One of the named competitors has told Fairfax Media he is suing Mr Whittington for defamation over the claims.

Both have vigorously disputed the claims.

The CARI post also says its operatives left behind in Beirut “are strong and well”.

Mr Whittington’s wife, who did not give her name, also posted on the page attacking critics of her husband and saying he was “an honourable and brave” man and called for authorities to be lenient in their treatment of him.

“Adam is receiving some bad press at the moment and he is being accused of being a liar and a fraudster,” she wrote.

“Adam is a former military man and police officer. He is honourable and brave and a man who stands up for what he believes in.

“He feels passionately that it is wrong for one parent to take unilateral action and remove children from their custodial parent and from their home. That is exactly what this father did in this case.

“Adam is a good hearted family man who was trying to help a desperate mother.”

She said leniency should have been shown to her husband.

“I cannot comment on the details of the case but if the outcome is that Adam has committed a crime he will accept that and respect the Lebanese legal system and their right to punish him,” she said.

“For my part I hope that any punishment is as lenient as possible. He has not committed a crime against humanity.”

Earlier, Mr Whittington’s and Mr Michael’s lawyer, Joe Karam, claimed bank records showed the Nine Network directly paid for the botched child operation and hit out at the media company’s “unethical” decision to exclude those who carried out the plot from a deal that secured the television crew’s freedom.

While the Australians have gone free, Mr Elamine will pursue personal charges against Mr Whittington and Mr Michael and two Lebanese men who assisted with the plot.

“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,” Mr Karam told reporters outside the Palace of Justice.

Mr Karam said bank records would show Nine directly paid CARI $69,000 in one of two expected instalments.

“That shows that they did ask him to provide an investigation in a missing child which is not buying a story; they asked for what happened.

“They were all a team; they came altogether and I think they should leave altogether,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said she was pleased the civil proceedings had been settled and that Ms Faulkner and the 60 Minutes crew were on their way home.

She emphasised that, in situations such as these, Australia would “do what we can” on behalf of citizens, but ultimately they were in the hands of foreign laws and courts.

“Australian governments cannot become involved in the sovereign legal proceedings of other countries,” she said.

“You have to abide by the law of the other country in which you are a visitor.”

Mr Karam has called on the Australian government to do more to assist Mr Whittington, who is a dual British-Australian citizen.

Ms Bishop said that, while Australia had provided consular assistance to Mr Whittington, Lebanon would liaise with British authorities as he was travelling on his British passport.

“Custody cases are always difficult. They rarely have a win-win situation for all,” she said.


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