British police arrest Madeleine 'investigator' over fraud

NOV 25, 2009
Agence France Presse

A businessman paid to help search for British girl Madeleine McCann was arrested after a hotel manager recognised him as an alleged fraudster wanted by US authorities, British police said Wednesday. Kevin Halligen, 48, was arrested Tuesday at a luxury hotel in Oxford, southern England, where he had been staying for several months under an assumed name. He was arrested following an argument over his bill. The hotel's manager recalled his face from a newspaper report last weekend about the alleged fraud.

The US Department of Justice issued an indictment for Halligen earlier this month, alleging he tried to defraud a London law firm of 2.1 million dollars (1.4 million euros). "We arrested a 48-year-old man yesterday morning at the Old Bank Hotel in Oxford. It was a discrepancy over his hotel bill," Thames Valley Police said Wednesday.

Halligen runs a private investigation firm based in Washington, DC, which was used by Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry last year to look for their daughter, who disappeared from her family's holiday flat in Portugal in 2007. The company, Oakley International, was paid 300,000 pounds (330,000 euros, 500,000 dollars) to carry out detective work on possible sightings of Madeleine. Madeleine, who was four when she went missing, has never been found. Donations from the public were used to set up a fund to assist in the search for her.

A spokesman for the McCann family said: "Our association with Halligen and Oakley International ended well over a year ago. "Given that an arrest has been made it would be inappropriate for us to comment."

The US Department of Justice indictment alleges that Halligen claimed the money from the law firm was to help secure the release of two business executives from Dutch company Trafigura, who were arrested in the Ivory Coast. He is accused of using the funds for his own benefit, including buying a mansion in the United States.

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