Australian Sally Faulkner and four Channel Nine journalists arrested in Lebanon for their alleged involvement in the attempted kidnapping of Faulkner's two children, were released from a Beirut jail after a deal was struck between the Australian broadcaster and Faulkner's ex-husband, Ali al-Amin.
However, the deal excluded Britons Adam Whittington and Craig Michael, and two Lebanese citizens who were among nine people charged with kidnapping the two children, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Joe Karam, a lawyer for the two Britons, condemned Channel Nine's decision to exclude the people whom it had hired to execute the botched operation from the release deal. Karam claimed the channel's bank accounts will prove that it directly paid Whittington, the self-styled international "child recovery" operative, to carry out the "recovery" of Faulkner's children from her ex-husband.
"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," Karam was quoted as saying to mediapersons, noting that bank records would show the channel paid Whittington's firm Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI) $69,000 (£48,000) in one of two expected instalments.
"They were all a team they came all together and I think they should leave altogether," Karam added.
Those released included Faulkner, Channel Nine's 60 Minutes show crew – presenter Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, sound recordist David Ballment and cameraman Benjamin Williamson.
However, in contradiction to Karam's claims, the media company's Lebanese lawyer Kamal Aboudaher reportedly said that the channel "paid for the story ... this lady [Faulkner] came to them after contracting Adam [Whittington]".
Meanwhile, some lawyers reportedly said Al-Amin agreed to drop charges against the media crew and his estranged wife in exchange for a "substantial" compensation given by Channel Nine. However, he denied having received any money, The Guardian reported.
Faulkner may not pursue a custody claim for her two children, the UK daily added. Her ex-husband had reportedly brought the children to Beirut in May 2015 and refused to send them back to her in Brisbane, following which she undertook the child recovery plan with the help of the Australian journalists, Whittington and others.
One of the lawyers was quoted by the Guardian as saying that the amount paid to Faulkner's ex-husband "was much, much higher than a normal amount for custody cases in Lebanon, which is around $40,000-$50,000 [£28,000-£35,000]."
During a court hearing of Faulkner and the four Australian journalists, the judge accepted the withdrawal of charges by Al-Amin, but he said he was yet to take a decision on referring separate criminal charges to another court. In that case, all five of them would be required to return to Lebanon for a later hearing.
Reportedly, Faulkner's ex-husband had access to her emails and social media accounts and was aware of her movements and plans. Intelligence officers were also alerted and were tracking her moves, the Guardian noted.
Briefing about how the group was nabbed following the abduction of the two children, a senior Lebanese official told the Guardian that soon after Whittington and his two accomplices arrived on a boat rented in Cyprus, they were under close watch. Police kept a close watch on the Australians too, tracking all their movements.
"On the day of the kidnapping, we saw one of them leave the hotel in a grey Hyundai Kia at 5.30am. Later that day we learned that the same car had been used in the abduction. Then we knew we had them," the official said.