Irish News

Friday 29 August 2014

Man denies Maddy search cash con

Published 03/06/2014 | 00:07

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A Washington-based company is said to have received around £300,000 from backers of Kate and Gerry McCann

A conman who set up a firm to hunt for Madeleine McCann has denied allegations that he funded a lavish lifestyle using cash donated by the public.

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Kevin Halligen's Washington-based company received around £300,000 from backers of Kate and Gerry McCann but his contract was terminated early and he was later convicted of fraud in the US on a separate matter.

The McCanns used the Irish national's firm Oakley International for around six months to look for their missing daughter.

The £500,000 contract saw the firm hire private detectives, set up a hotline and process information.

But the McCanns terminated the arrangement without paying the full fees because Halligen, from Surrey, apparently failed to fulfil certain agreements.

In an interview for Channel 5 documentary The McCanns And The Conman, Halligen denied claims that he misused money raised to find Madeleine.

It has been claimed that he spent the money on first class travel, luxury hotel suites and a chauffeur.

He said: "It is gross distortion of what was actually happening.

"The print media in particular took this line that really nothing was being done, I was living the high life on the proceeds of the McCann case.

"Trust me, I didn't buy so much as a new suit."

He added: "The money, all of it, is fully accountable."

Major Tim Craig-Harvey, a former Army officer who worked on the investigation with Halligen, said: "The gist of the story was that Halligen was a conman, that he had stolen funds, that nothing had been delivered and that the contract had been cancelled."

He added: "He went into, I think it was PNC bank in (Washington) DC and drew out a hundred thousand dollars at a time (and) stuffed it in his pocket.

"That was the last anyone saw of him."

But Halligen denied that he left the country without telling anybody.

"(I) didn't vanish. Everybody knew I was going to Rome," he insisted.

"It has also been reported that I was going to Rome for a holiday with this hot young lady. Untrue. This myth that I vanished off to Rome and spent everybody's money is exactly that, a myth."

Halligen pleaded guilty at an American court last year to defrauding Dutch company Trafigura of £1.3 million after claiming he needed funds to secure the release of two business executives who were arrested in the Ivory Coast.

He is said to have spent the cash on a lavish lifestyle, including a mansion in Virginia, US.

Mr Halligen was arrested at Old Bank hotel in Oxford in 2009 where he was staying for several months under an assumed name and had run up a £5,000 bill.

:: The McCanns And The Conman airs tomorrow night at 9pm on Channel 5.

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