FBI hunts for investigator paid £500,000 by McCanns

Briton implicated in string of frauds thought to have changed his identity

A PRIVATE investigator whose company was paid more than £500,000 by the McCann family to look for their missing daughter has gone on the run after being implicated in a string of high-profile frauds.

Kevin Halligen, 48, is thought to have pocketed at least £300,000 from public donations that were given in the wake of Madeline McCann's disappearance before he went on the run from his mansion near Washington DC over a separate investigation into an allegation that he defrauded an international oil company out of more than £1m.

The FBI has issued a warrant for his arrest and US officials believe he is living with a girlfriend in Britain under an assumed identity. Halligen is also being pursued by a number of fellow private investigators and former secret-service officers who say they have also been defrauded by him. Halligen, who regularly claimed he had worked for Britain's security services but in fact had a background in consultancy work, was indicted by the US Department of Justice last week over an allegation that he used £1.2m which had been given to him by the international oil company, Trafigura, to fraudulently buy a mansion.

The money was meant to have been used to help secure the release of two high-level employees of the Dutch company accused of dumping toxic waste in West Africa.

In September 2006 Claude Dauphin, the president of the company, and another executive were seized in the Ivory Coast following the dumping of toxic chemicals on the outskirts of Abidjan. Halligen's private detective agency, Oakley International, was hired by the company to help to identify the key power brokers in the Ivory Coast and secure the executives' release. But instead he allegedly used the money to buy himself a mansion in Great Falls, Virginia.

The following year Halligen's firm was hired by the Madeleine Fund to help in the search for the three-year-old, who went missing from her parent's holiday home in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz in May 2007. But he was dropped from the investigation after just six months.

Private detectives who were brought in by Halligen's firm to look for the missing girl have since come forward to claim that they were not paid for their services. They are now looking for Halligen themselves. According to a Sunday newspaper, Halligen was hired by the Madeleine Fund through Henri Exton, a former national head of undercover operations for the police who was already working on the Madeleine's disappearance. Exton was reportedly assured by Halligen that his contacts in Washington would be able to provide the fund with high-tech satellite imagery from Portugal the night Madeleine was abducted. But according to one source quoted in The Sunday Times "all he came up with was a Google Earth image".

Halligen's contract with the Madeline Fund, which received more than £1m in public donations following her disappearance, came to an end in October 2008, but not before his firm had pocketed £500,000.

In October last year, Halligen left the United States saying he needed a holiday in Rome. He left his wife to fly first class to Italy with a new girlfriend where they reportedly settled into the five-star Cavalieri hotel. He was last seen staying at the five-star Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath under and assumed name and is thought to still be in Britain.

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 about delivery in some areas and the contract was terminated."