SYDNEY • An Australian television crew accused of aiding a mother in the botched kidnapping of her two children in Lebanon flew home yesterday amid reports of a multimillion-dollar deal struck with the father to drop abduction charges.
Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner and the Channel Nine team were arrested and charged last week after Ms Faulkner's son and daughter were snatched in broad daylight on a Beirut street.
But they were released on bail on Wednesday after the father, Mr Ali al-Amin, decided not to pursue the charges in court. Ms Faulkner's lawyer, Mr Ghassan Mughabghab, said a deal had been struck granting Mr Amin full custody of the children in line with Lebanese law.
The commercial Nine network did not mention any deal they were reportedly behind, but announced a full inquiry into the bizarre episode.
Australian newspaper Sydney's Daily Telegraph said "a multimillion-dollar deal was struck to drop abduction charges".
"Nine pays dad to win freedom for crew and mum," the paper said, adding that "a massive sum of cash" had been paid in compensation.
The crew and Ms Faulkner still face potential charges by Lebanon's public prosecutor, but they can be sentenced in absentia.
Mr Amin's lawyer, Mr Hussein Berjawi, told AFP he has not dropped charges against two Britons and two Lebanese allegedly involved in the abduction through a child recovery agency. Ms Faulkner remains in Beirut for a custody hearing with her estranged husband.
Bailed star reporter Tara Brown, her producer, cameramen and sound recordist left on the earliest flight out of Beirut after their release. It was a disastrous end to the news story they had planned.
"They intended to get away in a boat captained by a member of a private child recovery agency," a Lebanese security source said.
The crew were arrested on April 7, a day after the children were grabbed. Video shows the children walking with an elderly person said to be their grandmother before several figures jump out of a car, shove the adult aside and carry the children off in the vehicle.
Police later found Ms Faulkner with the children.