news

60 Minutes case team leader boasted of 'big story'; Julie Bishop in talks with Lebanon.

By Matt Brown, Caitlyn Gribbin

The leader of the child recovery team allegedly involved in an operation which led to the arrest of an Australian mother and television crew in Lebanon told the ABC in the lead-up to the botched attempt that he tried to “avoid dangerous situations”.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says Lebanese authorities are treating the arrest of Brisbane woman Sally Faulkner and a Channel Nine television crew “very seriously”.

Ms Faulkner and the 60 Minutes team have been questioned by a Lebanese judge, who could downgrade child abduction charges against them.

The Channel Nine crew — presenter Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment — were among a group of people arrested after the attempt to take Ms Faulkner’s children off the streets of the capital, Beirut.

Contractor Adam Whittington spoke with the ABC before the alleged abduction attempt. (Image via ABC) 

Child recovery team leader Adam Whittington, spoke to the ABC from a boat in Lebanese waters shortly before the mission took place, discussing the methods used by his company and alluding to a "big story" being filmed by 60 Minutes.

"We try and avoid dangerous situations. Obviously sometimes we can't. But our main priority is the safety of the children when we do jobs," he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We work with authorities in many countries to get these jobs done."

"60 Minutes [are] with us now actually, doing a big story. So you should see that shortly."

The ABC understands Mr Whittington was taken off the boat by police when it returned to the marina.

Three of his agents are among those detained by police.

Bishop in 'constant communication' with Lebanese counterpart

Speaking on Wednesday, Ms Bishop said the group had not been formally charged, but charges were being recommended by Lebanese authorities.

"It underscores that we must abide by the laws of the country in which we are visiting, just as it would apply in Australia," she said.

"If people are in this country, they must abide by the laws of this country. But at this stage I don't want to go into any detail, I think it would be counter-productive."

It is understood the charges being brought by the prosecution include: hiding information, forming an association with two or more people to commit crime against a person, kidnapping or holding a minor, and physical assault.

Ms Bishop said she was in "constant communication" with her Lebanese counterpart, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.

"I understand that the Lebanese authorities are treating this matter very seriously, hence the recommendation that charges be laid, but I stress that no formal charges have been laid and that a judge has been appointed to investigate the matter.

"We are providing consular support and undertaking consular visits to all Australians detained as a result of this incident."

Ms Bishop said it was unclear how long the Australians would be detained in Lebanon.

"Lebanese law is different from Australian law, it's based on the French system, so there is this investigative stage. We don't have a direct equivalent in Australian law," she explained.

"We are taking advice but I understand that all of the Australians detained have retained lawyers, local lawyers, who will be advising them of their rights."

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

© 2016 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. Read the ABC Disclaimer here.

00:00 / ???