One of the accused kidnappers hired by 60 minutes for the botched abduction of two children in Lebanon is a self-confessed former hard-drug user with mental problems who didn’t want to pay child support.
Craig Michael remains behind bars in Beiruit with co-accused Adam Whittington charged with kidnapping after the botched child recovery operation of Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner’s two young children.
Mr Michael, a British-Cypriot tattooist, snatched his own child during a Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI) operation in Poland where he was accompanied by Mr Whittington, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Adam Whittington (left) and Craig Michael (pictured right after the recovery of his daughter in Poland in 2014) remain in a Beirut jail facing kidnapping charges after allegedly leading the failed child recovery operation
Court documents reveal that Mr Michael argued against paying child support in 2010 and wrote in an affidavit that he was ‘not in a position to work because I have been a user of hard drugs for several years’
Court documents reveal that Mr Michael argued against paying child support in 2010 and wrote in an affidavit that he was ‘not in a position to work because I have been a user of hard drugs for several years.’
He also reportedly stated: ‘I suffer from serious mental problems that cause amongst others lack of mnemonic, panic attacks and confusion.’
The affidavit was filed in Limassol Family Court in Cyprus and was in relation to a bitter custody dispute with his former partner Marta Swinarska.
However, Mr Michael now vehemently denies any drug use. ‘I haven’t ever been a drug addict,’ he insists.
He also says he only suffered mental issues such as ‘stress and headaches’, brought on by running a new tattoo shop at the time, as well as a ‘brain lesion leaking blood which made me very dizzy.’
‘I did not receive one cent and did this for the love of reuniting the children with their mother,’ further claims Mr Michael, regarding the botched operation.
A bank statement has emerged which allegedly shows that the Nine Network directly paid at least $69,000 for the failed kidnapping of two children in Lebanon
Earlier this week, a bank statement has emerged which allegedly shows that the Nine Network directly paid at least $69,000 for the failed abduction of two young children in Lebanon.
The documents, which were presented to a Beirut court, show that a payment was sent to CARI with the reference ‘Investigation Into My Missing Child’.
CARI founder Adam Whittington, who is still behind bars, claimed this is proof that Nine paid for the botched recovery operation that landed Tara Brown, her 60 Minutes crew and a Brisbane mother in jail.
His lawyer said that Nine paid Whittington a total of $115,000 to snatch Sally Faulkner’s two children from her estranged husband’s family on a Beirut street on April 6.
Adam Whittington, the founder of the firm – who is still behind bars – claimed this is proof that Nine paid for the failed abduction that landed Tara Brown, her 60 Minutes crew and a mother in jail
60 Minutes presenter Tara Brown and Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner (front) were pictured walking free from jail in Beirut on Wednesday
It comes after Brown and her three-man crew were released on bail on Wednesday along with Ms Faulkner after her ex-husband, Ali Elamine, 32, dropped the charges.
A judge told them they were all ‘free to leave Lebanon’ after Nine paid a multi-million dollar settlement.
But Mr Elamine is still pressing charges against Mr Whittington, who was allegedly in charge of the operation, as well as Craig Michael and two Lebanese people involved.
They must remain in the country to face the charges.
Mr Whittington’s lawyer Joe Karam slammed the ‘unethical’ decision to leave the men in jail, saying that Nine had run away from any responsibility.
Speaking outside the Baabda Palace of Justice in Beirut, Mr Karam said: ‘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.
‘They were all a team they came all together and I think they should leave altogether,’ he said.
CCTV footage supplied by Lebanese authorities appeared to show the bungled abduction earlier this week
Adam Whittington (left) and Craig Michael (right) remain in custody in Beirut after a failed attempt to recover Sally Faulkner’s two children on April 7. The CARI group insists a rival revealed their plan
Ms Faulkner’s estranged husband, Ali Elamine, pictured leaving court on Monday, previously told reporters that he would press charges against everyone ‘involved’ in the failed abduction attempt
He released the documents which allegedly show that $69,000 was paid into an account called IPCA Limited on January 22 this year.
The payment was made from TCN Channel Nine’s ANZ bank account.
‘This is the first instalment of two payments that were given to my client by Channel 9,’ Mr Karam told AAP.
‘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.’
Mr Karam said he would continue to fight for Whittington and Michael’s release from jail.
A spokesman for Nine told Daily Mail Australia they ‘can’t make any comment on these matters’ as they are part of an internal review.
Channel Nine has announced a review into the botched operation to be led by former 60 Minutes boss Gerald Stone.
Nine CEO Hugh Marks emailed staff on Thursday morning promising a comprehensive investigation into how the crew became embroiled in the child snatching plot.
Ms Brown was pictured being shoved into a police car on Monday after a court hearing was postponed
Ms Brown was caught in the middle of a frenzy outside a Beirut court earlier this week, but she said it looked worse than it was
Faulkner in the mini van as she leaves the Beirut jail after her release with the 60 Minutes crew
The veteran reporter was pictured walking free from jail two weeks after the botched abduction attempt
‘It is important to reiterate that at no stage did anyone from Nine or 60 Minutes intend to act in any way that made them susceptible to charges that they breached the law or to become part of the story that is Sally’s story. But we did become part of the story and we shouldn’t have,’ he said.
‘Nine will conduct a full review that will be headed by Gerald Stone, with David Hurley and General Counsel Rachel Launders, to ascertain what went wrong and why our systems, designed to protect staff, failed to do so in this case.’
‘We will task the review with recommending the necessary actions to ensure that none of our colleagues are put in a similar position in the future.’
Ms Faulkner was released on bail on Wednesday along with Ms Brown and her crew, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson, sound recordist David Ballment.
They are still facing public prosecution charges of kidnapping and being members of a criminal gang and may be required to return if the prosecution goes ahead.
The crew could be tried in ‘absentia’ if they do not return and face being banned from the country.
They were seen laughing, hugging and smiling together in a car after they were all freed from jail.
The TV crew are expected to arrive back in Sydney at around 10pm (local time).
Tara Brown (pictured) was detained on kidnapping charges with a 60 Minutes crew that filmed the ‘child abduction’ of Sally Faulkner’s two children in Lebanon on April 7
Mr Whittington’s lawyer claimed his client was paid a total of $115,000 to snatch Sally Faulkner’s (pictured) two children from her estranged husband’s family on a Beirut street on April 6
The two children will now live with their father, Mr Elamine (pictured) in Lebanon after he was granted full custody
The breakthrough came after Ms Faulkner secured a deal with her estranged partner in which she gave Mr Elamine full custody of the children in return for her release.
The Australian reported that Mr Elamine is thought to have received a payout in the ‘low single-digit millions’.
But Mr Elamine insisted that he ‘did not sign anything, did not get anything’.
When asked whether Channel Nine paid anyone surrounding him or connected to him, Mr Elamine replied, ‘I can’t comment on that’.
‘So someone around you may have received this money from Channel Nine?’ The Project’s Carrie Bickmore asked.
‘Again, I have no idea. My lawyer and myself never communicated anything in regards to that,’ Mr Elamine replied.
Ms Faulkner’s lawyer previously said she has been fighting to get access to her children for nine months.
The lawyer said that Mr Elamine took the two children on a three-week holiday to Lebanon and did not return them as agreed.
But an attempt to snatch them from a suburban Beirut street by a ‘child recovery team’, caught on CCTV, was ultimately unsuccessful.
The children were returned to their father and the 60 Minutes team were arrested.