Channel Nine reportedly turned to one of the central characters in Melbourne’s infamous gangland wars to help secure the release a 60 Minutes crew from a Lebanese jail.
Fairfax Media reports a senior Nine executive reached out underworld figure Mick Gatto and his business partner John Khoury after negotiations in Lebanon faltered over the weekend.
The news of the appeal to Mr Gatto and Mr Khoury comes less than a day after it was revealed the network wanted to enlist the help of disgraced New South Wales MP and Labor power broker Eddie Obeid to bring their crew home.
According to Fairfax, sources said Nine hoped Mr Khoury could use his contacts in Lebanon to secure a speedy release after father Ali Elamine and his estranged wife Sally Faulkner failed to come to an agreement over the kidnapping charges.
Similar hopes were reportedly held for the network’s appeal to Mr Obeid.
Mr Gatto and Mr Khoury were to act as dispute mediators and were reportedly preparing to fly to Beirut when the 60 Minutes crew and Ms Faulkner were freed.
"We were planning to go and we agreed to do it the Slater & Gordon way - no win, no fee," Mr Khoury told Fairfax.
Mr Gatto declined to comment but Channel Nine said, “there were no formal Network decisions” about employing Mr Gatto or Mr Khoury.
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Mick Gatto spent 18 months in custody in 2004 after he was charged with the murder of Melbourne hitman Andrew “Benji” Veniamin before he was found not guilty due to self-defense.
Veniamin was shot twice in the head during an argument with Mr Gatto.
Eddie Obeid was a senior member of the former NSW Government and has been mired in a corruption scandal for the past several years.
Channel Nine and 60 Minutes have been under increasing scrutiny over the fiasco in Lebanon which began when a 60 Minutes crew flew to Lebanon to cover Ms Faulkner’s efforts to reunite with her young children.
The network has been accused of paying ‘child recovery’ experts to snatch Ms Faulkner’s children from their grandmother after they returned to Lebanon with their father Ali Elamine.
Shortly after the children were grabbed off of the street, Ms Faulkner, 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown, her crew and four 'child recovery experts' were arrested to face kidnapping and conspiracy charged.
It has since been revealed the network transferred $69,000 to Child Abduction Recovery International head Adam Whittington in January.
Mr Whittington remains in a Lebanese jail along with three of his colleagues.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has become the latest figure to pile pressure onto Nine over 60 Minutes' disastrous journey to the Middle East, suggesting their could be official investigations into reports Nine paid up to $1 million to secure the release of its employees.
Mr Turnbull said the 'child recovery' mission had been 'most unwise'.
“I’d rather say no more about it, other than to make this observation: it doesn’t matter who you are, or who you work for, when you are overseas you must obey the laws of the country in which you are visiting. Nobody is above the law,” he said.
“If you break the law in other parts of the world, you may well be breaking Australian law as well."
The Nine Network has announced its own internal review in the 60 Minutes saga.