Page last updated at 08:39 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Businessman hired to look for Madeleine denied bail

The Old Bank Hotel in Oxford where Kevin Halligen was arrested
Kevin Halligen was arrested at an hotel in Oxford

A businessman hired to help look for Madeleine McCann and wanted by the FBI on fraud charges has appeared in court.

Kevin Halligen was arrested at an Oxford hotel on Tuesday and refused bail at London's City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old from Surrey is facing extradition to the US, where he is wanted for an alleged £1.2m fraud.

The Irish national was hired by Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry, as a security consultant.

His Washington-based company, Oakley International, was paid about £300,000 to help search for Madeleine, who was nearly four when she vanished from an Algarve holiday flat on 3 May 2007.

The firm had initially been awarded a £500,000 contract, but the McCanns terminated the arrangement before paying any more fees.

'Bought mansion'

The US Department of Justice issued an indictment for Mr Halligen earlier this month, alleging he tried to defraud a London law firm of £1.2m ($2.1m).

It says he took the money as part of a deal to secure the release of Dutch business executives arrested in the Ivory Coast, but instead spent the money on buying a mansion and gifts.

The magistrates' court heard he had been staying at a series of addresses during the past eight months to evade reporters interested in the McCann case.

I note the gravity of the offences alleged and the high value involved
Judge Howard Riddle

Melanie Cumberland, acting for the UK government, told the court Mr Halligen was wanted in the US for taking money from the Dutch company Trafigura, via a London-based law firm.

She said he had been employed after the two executives had been arrested following a petrochemical spill on the Ivory Coast.

Instead, she said, he had spent £1m ($1.7m) on a mansion, £85,000 ($141,000) on a gift to his girlfriend and more than £26,000 ($43,000) in cash on other items.

She said when he had been arrested at the Old Bank Hotel in Oxford over a discrepancy in a bill of about £5,000, police had discovered he had already packed his bag to leave.

Refusing bail, Judge Howard Riddle said: "I note the gravity of the offences alleged and the high value involved.

"At this stage, comparatively little is known about his movements, how he came to be in this country and where he has been staying."

The court heard a full extradition request was likely to be submitted by the US authorities by the end of January.



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