news

How much money did Channel 9 actually pay to free the 60 Minutes crew?

The charges have been dropped, the cell doors opened. After two weeks in a Lebanese prison, Sally Faulkner, Tara Brown and the 60 Minutes crew are free.

But as the four make their long-awaited journey back home, rumours and speculation are rife about precisely what — or should that be how much — it took to secure their freedom.

What we do know is that it has cost the Brisbane mother custody of her two children, a divorce to her estranged husband Ali el-Amine, and a custodial application currently in the Family Court of Australia.

After her desperate, failed attempt to recover Lahela and Noah from a Beirut street and bring them back to Australia, Faulkner will now only be permitted to visit them in Lebanon or a third country.

father in 60 minutes case

via Facebook.

What's less clear is if money has changed hands.

Potentially a significant amount, has been paid to el-Amine by Channel 9, in supposed compensation and for dropping abduction charges just hours before.

The Australian last night reported that the payout was somewhere in the “low single-digit millions”. Meanwhile, the ABC cited legal sources who suggested it would be "hundreds of thousands of dollars".

A reporter from News Corp agreed, saying her sources told her the figure was "not in millions of millions but it was enormous by Lebanese standards."

But el-Amine has denied the claims.

In an interview with KIIS FM's Kyle and Jackie O, el-Amine denied he has been compensated at all. “Everyone is saying I got paid millions,” he said.

When pushed on exactly how much he received, el-Amine responded: "Nothing, not a dime".

The father isn't denying that money changed hands, just insisting that it didn't go to him.

“It’s Lebanon, someone is getting paid," he speculated. "Did they pay the judicial system? The brown paper bag is allowed sometimes, right?”

Channel 9 has declined to comment on the transaction.

Whatever funds were exchanged, it did not secure the release of the two men from the child recovery agency employed by Ms Faulkner to carry out the operation.

Adam Whittington, Craig Michael and two unidentified local operatives remain in a Lebanese prison, as Mr el-Amine has not dropped his personal charges against them.

The other four may have to return to Lebanon if further charges are laid by the state. Investigations are ongoing.

Channel 9 has announced a review into the incident.

Watch Tara Brown and Sally Faulkner's first interview after they were released: 

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???