FBI hunting PI charged over $2.3m law firm con

23 November 2009 
Daily Telegraph

A private detective whose company was paid up to pound stg. 500,000 ($900,000) from publicly donated funds to find Madeleine McCann has been charged with fraud.  Kevin Halligen, 48, is wanted in the US by the FBI for allegedly conning a law firm out of pound stg. 1.3 million ($2.35 million) by claiming he could help free two men jailed in war-torn Africa.

It is claimed he instead spent the money on a mansion.  However, he has not been arrested because US officials don't know where he is. In another case, a US court has ordered Halligen to repay a loan of pound stg. 2 million ($3.6 million) to a business partner. And a British lawyer is claiming pound stg. 1.3 million after investing in Halligen's company but receiving no return.

Halligen's firm, Oakley International, was hired by the Madeleine Fund but was dropped after six months over claims he was making little progress and spending too much.  Halligen, who claims a wealth of contacts in the British security services and FBI, said he had infiltrated a paedophile ring in Belgium.  He regularly visited Kate and Gerry McCann to give updates on the hunt for Madeleine, who was three when she vanished from a holiday flat in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007.

In the months after Halligen was ditched, four investigators demanded another pound stg. 200,000 ($360,000) from the fund claiming they had not been paid by him.  Halligen's indictment is likely to dismay thousands who gave money to the Madeleine Fund.  

A document filed in the District Court of Columbia claims Halligen took money and said his firm could help secure the release of two executives from Dutch company Trafigura, imprisoned in the Ivory Coast in 2007.  The men were arrested after the alleged unloading of toxic waste.  Halligen is said to have proposed a rescue operation by flying in South African mercenaries but it was later cancelled. The men were freed a few months later following a reported pound stg. 120 million ($217 million) payment.  Halligen was last seen in Italy and has allegedly left a trail of debts in the US.

The Madeleine Fund received more than pound stg. 1 million ($1.8 million) in donations after her disappearance but was hugely depleted by Halligen's services.  There are concerns the fund will soon be empty.  A spokesman for the McCanns, Clarence Mitchell, insisted the fund had not been duped.

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