Irish conman to be deported over $2m fraud

01 July 2013
Irish Examiner
John Breslin

An Irish conman who penetrated the inner circles of Washington DC society is to be deported from the US immediately, after being sentenced to more than time served for a $2m fraud.

A judge has ordered Kevin Richard Halligen to be deported, likely to Ireland as US officials are working off an Irish passport, though the man himself insists he is an Englishman.

If sent to Britain, he could find himself being questioned over vast sums of money handed to him by a fund set up to search for Madeleine McCann and for which little work appeared to be done.

Halligen, from a working class south Dublin family who spoke with a high-class English accent and told people he was a spy, pleaded guilty last month to one count of fraud, stealing $2.1m (€1.6m) from a Dutch firm that hired him to help release two missing executives.

It was only a fraction of the $12m total Halligen’s firm was paid to find the pair, employees of Trafigura, whose executives had been taken captive in the Ivory Coast after they travelled to the country in response to a tanker spill off the coast.

Instead of using the money to grease the wheels of the Capitol as promised, the 51-year-old within days bought a $1.6m house for himself and his fiancée in Crystal Falls, Virginia, outside Washington.

In court on Thursday, Halligen spoke publicly for the first time since his late-2009 arrest in Britain, where he landed ahead of being charged in a Washington DC federal court.

Appealing for leniency, Halligen said at his sentencing he takes “full responsibility” for his actions.

He said although he misused the $2.1m payment, the rest of the money did fund more than 30 contractors whom he said he hired to work on Trafigura’s case.

“I want to make it clear I was not sitting on a little fortune of my own $12m,” he said, telling Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly: “I’m in your hands.”

While prosecutors wanted a stiffer sentence, partly because Halligen was found in a civil court of stiffing business associates of $7m, Judge Kollar-Kotelly sentenced him to the maximum 41 months under federal sentencing guidelines.

Because he has been in prison for a total 43 months in Britain fighting extradition and in the US ahead of sentencing, Halligen is essentially a free man.

But the judge made clear she wants Halligen out of the US immediately. Halligen did not disagree and asked to be deported as soon as possible.

Halligen has also been ordered to pay $2.1m in restitution but has pleaded poverty, claiming he has no assets or cash.

Halligen was known in the top restaurants — in one he spent many long days, from 11am to 4pm, drinking the most expensive wine and constantly smoking cigarettes. In another he was known as James Bond for constantly dropping hints of his clandestine life as a spy.

One friend, later a senior official in the Obama administration, who admits thoroughly enjoying many Martini-filled hours with Halligen, described how he mentioned his intelligence newsletter to the Irishman, warning it would cost him $15,000 for a subscription.

“He wrote a cheque right there at the table for $20,000,” Noel Koch, a Washington insider since the Nixon era, told the Washington Post.

Supporters of the Madeleine McCann fund believe some of the £300,000 (€350,000) funnelled to Halligen after he was hired to help find the girl paid for those boozy days in DC.

Associates who worked on the McCann case cannot recall Halligen coming up with any idea of note, citing one in which he proposed hiring a man dressed as a priest to go angling for confessions on a pub crawl around the bars of the resort where she disappeared.

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