FBI hunt £300K Maddie conman

23 November 2009 
Scottish Daily Record 
Craig McDonald
Secret agent fantasist vanishes with cash after promise of help

A self-styled secret agent has pocketed £300,000 from the Madeleine McCann fund, it's been claimed. Businessman and "security consultant" Kevin Halligen, 50, was paid thousands to find the missing girl - but allegedly failed to pass the money on to private detectives carrying out the work for him. A McCann family friend said: "He offered to provide satellite images which could help the case - but all he came up with was something off Google Earth. "He acted as if he were a James Bond-style spy. He promised the Earth but it came to nothing."

The FBI have now been called in to investigate Halligen, who is also wanted by America's justice department over fraud allegations. It's also claimed he bigamously married US government lawyer Maria Dybczak two years ago in Washington.

Undercover Halligen, born in Dublin, came to England in the 1970s and claims links to the shadowy world of intelligence. He once wrote of himself: "Kevin has operational experience in Northern Ireland and the Middle East and retains close links with special forces and the international government security community." 

Madeleine had been missing for a year when Brian Kennedy, the millionaire who donated funds for the search, contacted Halligen's firm, Oakley International, via former police head of undercover operations Henri Exton.

It's claimed Halligen "seemed impressive" at initial meetings and offered the McCanns undercover surveillance and intelligence gathering in Portugal. A contract was agreed with Oakley International - but former colleagues say Halligen had no experience of such investigations. The actual detective work was carried out by others, including Exton, who produced reports pointing to new leads. Halligen was supposed to provide technical data, such as satellite imagery from contacts in Washington.

The contract ran out in October last year and was not renewed. Halligen's company had been paid £500,000 but the contractors who did the work say they're owed more than £300,000. Last night, the McCanns' spokesman, Clarence Mitchell said: "Oakley International was contracted to help with the search for Madeleine. "Due diligence was carried out at every stage and payment was only made for work properly carried out. "It was only towards the end of the six-month contract that question marks were raised."

The McCann family friend said: "He had this sense of cloak and dagger. The McCanns found him hard to deal with because he was forever in another country and using different phones." Exton called in the FBI, who are now hunting the businessman. He is said to owe more than £3million to a string of creditors. Halligen was last spotted with a girlfriend at the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath, Somerset.

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