SBS investigates doco fraud
Embarrassed SBS executives have announced they are pulling a new documentary from their schedules after it emerged one of the key figures in the program is reportedly a fraud.PT1M23S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2zqhl 620 349 December 20, 2013
Embarrassed SBS executives have announced they are pulling a new documentary from their schedules after it emerged one of the key figures in the program is reportedly a fraud.
Michael LaHoud, who stars in the production Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl, has claimed to have served a jail term of almost five years for armed robbery during which time he fathered three daughters in “conjugal visits”.
But court records reportedly show that the heavily tattooed LaHoud was in custody for just four days, while Middle Eastern crime experts reportedly have never heard of the so-called “gangster”.
Michael LaHoud, billed as one of the stars in SBS's Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl. Photo: Supplied
“The integrity and accuracy of SBS programming and respect for our audience is paramount, therefore the network has decided to remove the series from its schedule until full investigations are carried out to its satisfaction,” SBS said in a statement.
In an interview last week with Fairfax Media, LaHoud said he wanted to do the program to show he wasn't a “bad person” and that “people can change”.
“My children have made me be more of a man in life,” he said. “I don't do anything bad now – it's totally changed me.
Michael LaHoud in a scene from SBS's Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl. Photo: Supplied
“Society's changed. Now if you break the law, you go to jail. I know if I did what I did back in the day now, I'd be in jail for life.”
He said he had also learnt to cope with the inevitable attention he got for his heavily tattooed face.
“Everyone stares at me,” he sad. “Even my children. At the start I used to care, now I just deal with it. I've realised that it's going to happen because I've got ink on my face.”
The four-part series, which is a co-production with Northern Pictures, is a follow-up to the SBS series Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta about the impact of Vietnamese immigration to the Sydney suburb.
Once Upon A Time In Punchbowl traces Lebanese settlement in southwest suburban Sydney from the 1970s.
It pulls together a cross-section of the community to talk about their experiences.
Among them are police officers, community leaders, former drug addicts, former criminals and an academic.
Northern Pictures released a short statement on Friday afternoon about the furore, supporting SBS’s decision to can the show.
“The Lebanese-Australian community has faced challenges in its history, and Michael LaHoud and his family are part of that community,” the statement said. “We believe the story of Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl is an important one to tell and the series will give a unique insight into what it means to be Lebanese-Australian.”
Challenged to expand on the statement and whether the production company had doubts about LaHoud’s claims, what their fact-checking process was and when the results of any investigations would be released, Northern Pictures chief Sue Clothier refused to make any further comment.
She referred all inquiries to SBS, who refused to comment further.
A spokeswoman said Corrective Services NSW "does not permit and never has permitted conjugal visits in its correctional centres".
- with AAP