Four Corners

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#141

Let’s hope it’s better than the episode they did about the Liberal leadership spill a few months ago which was underwhelming


#142

Tonight’s final episode for those interested


#143

Monday 4 February
8:30pm Four Corners Season Return


#144

Escape From Saudi

Monday 4 February at 8:30pm

The women who make it and the ones who don’t.

“My name is Rahaf Mohammed. I’m 18 years old… They have my passport and tomorrow they will force me to go back…Please help me. They will kill me.” Rahaf Al Qunun.

It was a voice of desperation, an urgent SOS to the world. A Saudi teenager, trapped in transit, on the run from her family and the Saudi state, hoping to make it to Australia.

“I planned my escape…I planned it at dawn, paid for my tickets, left in the morning while my family slept and arrived at the airport.” Rahaf Al Qunun.

Within hours #saverahaf lit up social media and set off global headlines.

“There was no going back for Rahaf now…I couldn’t live with myself if this was a real person and I didn’t do what I could to help her.” Author.

Four Corners reporter Sophie McNeill flew to Bangkok, slipped past security and joined Rahaf Al Qunun as the young woman barricaded herself inside the room.

“An official…has just knocked on the door and tried to get Rahaf to leave, she’s refused… they’ve tried all sorts of ways of enticing her out of the room.” Sophie McNeill, reporter.

On Monday Four Corners reveals how the extraordinary events unfolded, using exclusive previously unseen video recorded by both Sophie McNeill and Rahaf herself. The program captures moments of high tension, despair and eventual jubilation when Rahaf is offered asylum in Canada.

Rahaf is one of the lucky ones; not every woman gains her freedom. In this dramatic investigation, Four Corners reveals how Australia has become a hotspot for women attempting to escape the oppressive Saudi regime. Not everyone makes it.

“They beat her. They taped her mouth shut. They bound her arms and legs together, and dragged her onto a plane kicking and screaming, and nobody did anything. This is a grown woman.” Author.

The program shows the tactics used and the pressure applied to try to stop these young women.

“The Saudi state is active in exerting its diplomatic influence to try to interdict them.” Human rights investigator.

Those lucky enough to make it to Australia say they are still at risk. The investigation has uncovered multiple cases of Saudi women here in Australia, living in fear, telling reporter Sophie McNeill of the attempts to intimidate or trick them into returning them home.

“They are trying to reach the girls and speak to them to convince them to return back to Saudi.” Saudi woman in Australia.

Escape from Saudi, reported by Sophie McNeill and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 4th February at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 5th February at 1.00pm and Wednesday 6th at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.


#145

Sarah Ferguson is leaving the show later this year to move to Beijing, to take up the role of ABC’s China bureau chief.


#146

Anything on Tony Jones and Q&A?


#147

Meet the scammers

Monday 11 February at 8:30pm

The cyber criminals breaking hearts and stealing billions.

“The criminals involved in this are definitely masters of manipulation. This is their job and they’re very good at it, and they’re very proud of being good at it.” Cyber scam expert.

Their voices are persuasive, their emails insistent and they are proven to be remarkably successful at conning countless people into handing over their money.

“When you have an appreciation for how big and sophisticated it is, this machine that’s behind it that’s targeting them, that’s where it sorts of tends to awaken one.” Police officer.

Internet scamming began in the early days of email with appeals from Nigerian ‘princes’ asking for help to regain their missing money. From those amateurish beginnings, the scammers watched, learned and refined their techniques. What started out as a simple scam from West Africa has now morphed into a global enterprise, conning people on an industrial scale.

“West African cybercrime is the biggest threat that we see on the internet today. It eclipses all the other threats that we’ve seen that are financially motivated.” Cyber security investigator.

On Monday Four Corners investigates how these scams operate, uncovering an online marketplace where fake identities and criminal skills are bought and sold.

“They offer Facebook profiles for sale, they offer pictures of uniformed servicemen for sale, they offer the backstory and kind of how you get started.” Retired US army colonel.

Reporter Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop travelled to Ghana to meet the scammers and watch them at work.

“The best targets are people who are divorced or widowed.” Scammer.

At the heart of their business is the ‘romance scam’, where criminals, often posing as lovelorn US soldiers, convince their victims to send them money.

“Over the course of the last two years, I’ve reported over 3,000 accounts to Facebook of scammers using my pictures to steal money from women.” Retired US army colonel.

For some, the romance scam is just the start of the nightmare, with victims used to launder money or conned into trafficking drugs, with devastating consequences.

“When they opened it and tested it and told me what it was, I was in complete shock, complete shock.” Drug mule.

And there’s growing evidence that the scammers are not only targeting Australian victims, they’re also setting up operations right here.

Meet the scammers, reported by Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop, goes to air on Monday 11th February at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 12th February at 1.00pm and Wednesday 13th at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.


#148

Project Dragon

Monday 18 February at 8.30pm

“I’m a hired gun to help either large corporates or governments to get back what is rightfully theirs.” Asset recovery agent.

As China has transformed itself into an economic powerhouse, billions of dollars have been illegally spirited out of the country. A large amount has made its way here to Australia.

“I think it’s been well understood for a number years that Australia has been a target location for hot money… We’ve seen that activity increase exponentially over the last number of years.” Financial crimes investigator.

Chinese authorities want the money back, and they’ve sent a clear message to anyone who has broken their rules - we will find you and your money.

“It seems as if there’s more than enough evidence that at least in jurisdictions like…Australia, the US and America, coercive tactics were used to force people back to China.” Transnational crime expert.

Now China has opened up a new front in its war on those accused of financial crimes. On Monday Four Corners will reveal the new tactics being used by Chinese authorities to take back money they believe has been stashed illegally in Australia.

“The mission is a recovery of funds that have been filtered from China to Australia.” Private investigator.

A new breed of financial bounty hunters is on the case, and their target is Australian real estate.

“There’s what we’re referring to as a cluster of properties… Most of them, or all of them waterfront, luxuriously appointed.” Security consultant.

With exclusive access to these investigators, reporter Mark Willacy sees first hand the extraordinary lengths they are going to.

“We can sell it and return the money back to China. Everyone’s happy…it’s a legal plan. There’s no drama.” Private investigator.

With questions being asked about the legality of their actions and the reach of the Chinese state, it’s a high risk operation.

“I think they have to tread carefully. One of the challenges they’ve got is that they need to walk a very, very narrow line.” Financial crimes investigator.

For the recovery agents themselves, they believe they are onto a financial winner.

“There’s a huge opportunity to develop and exploit this business channel, especially when it comes to Chinese money of dubious origin that has parked itself in Australia.” Asset recovery agent.

Project Dragon, reported by Mark Willacy, goes to air on Monday 18th February at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 19th February at 1.00pm and Wednesday 20th at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.