Conman in Madeleine McCann cash claims

Madeleine McCann vanished on holiday in Portugal in 2007. Picture: PA
Madeleine McCann vanished on holiday in Portugal in 2007. Picture: PA
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A CONMAN who allegedly used public donations designed to find Madeleine McCann to fund his extravagant lifestyle has spoken about his role in the search for the first time.

Kevin Halligen led a £500,000 investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance after claiming to have contacts within MI5, the CIA and even the White House.

But it is claimed he spent large amounts of the cash on his “high-roller lifestyle”, while neglecting to pay his “Operation Omega” team in the Algarve 
resort of Praia da Luz.

Halligen, recently released from a four-year jail term for an unrelated crime, tells his story for the first time as part of a TV documentary to be screened next week, it emerged yesterday.

A year after Madeleine’s disappearance in 2007, Kate and Gerry McCann hired Halligen as a private investigator. He reportedly spent much of the money on luxury hotels, restaurants and a chauffeur.

But despite neglecting his Operation Omega team, the new film claims the investigators made significant breakthroughs in the hunt for the missing child.

The team’s final report in 2008 is said to have contained leads which are now forming part of the current Scotland Yard investigation, including a sighting by retired businessman Martin Smith which led to an e-fit shown on Crimewatch last year.

Halligen’s firm, Oakley International, had its contract terminated by the McCanns after questions were raised about the quality of its work.

The Irishman was found guilty last year by an American court of defrauding Dutch firm Trafigura of £1.2 million, with his sentence backdated to his arrest in 2009.

Another of Halligen’s firms, Red Defence International, was hired as a consultant after two of Trafigura’s executives were taken hostage in the Ivory Coast.

Halligen claimed to have racked up £1.2m in expenses during the rescue operation, but had actually spent the money on a home in Virginia.

Emma Westcott, commissioning editor of factual programmes for Channel 5, said: “It’s seven years since Madeleine McCann disappeared and it remains one of the most troubling mysteries of our time. This documentary is the extraordinary story of one man’s audacious claims, and how he not only fooled the intelligence community at the highest level, but cynically exploited the nightmare of a missing child and her family.”

In 2010, a Sunday newspaper investigation claimed Halligen went on a spending spree while in the pay of the Find Madeleine Fund. According to the report, in his first two months as lead investigator in the search for Madeleine, Halligen spent £7,000 on a chauffeur.

A few months later, on a short trip to New York with a girlfriend, he spent £1,600 on Salvatore Ferragamo leather goods, £5,500 on handbags, £500 on a meal, £150 on a pair of designer glasses and £900 on a three-night stay at the five-star Renaissance Hotel.

The McCanns and the 
Conman will be screened on Wednesday 4 June on Channel 5.