By Daniel Boffey and Miles GoslettLast updated at 10:14 PM on 23rd August 2008
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The fund for finding Madeleine now has only £500,000 left in its coffers
A team of private investigators working behind the scenes to find Madeleine McCann has been axed after being paid £500,000 from publicly donated funds.
The Find Madeleine Fund quietly engaged the services of a US-based company which was awarded the lucrative six-month contract earlier this year.
The company, Oakley International, which boasts former British security service and FBI contacts, was hired to monitor the Madeleine Hotline, carry out detective work and review CCTV footage of possible sightings of the missing girl around the world.
A source revealed that the company had also spent resources in an attempt to infiltrate a paedophile ring in Belgium.
However, the company’s contract will now not be renewed. The Mail on Sunday has learned that double-glazing tycoon Brian Kennedy, who has been underwriting the fund’s search for Madeleine, has conducted a review of the agency’s work and has become unhappy with the progress it was making.
The deal was abruptly ended following a meeting last week after the fund brought in independent monitors to assess how the money was spent.
The cost of employing the agency - run by a Briton, Kevin Halligen - has drained the Madeleine fund and there is now less than £500,000 left.
The development is likely to dismay the thousands who gave to the appeal, and raise questions about how the fund has been administered.
Mr Kennedy, who owns Sale Sharks rugby club, was said to be ‘angry’ because he believed Oakley’s bills, estimated to be more than £80,000 a month, were too much for the results they achieved.
A source said: ‘There is a sense that they were meaning well but hadn’t got as far as they should for the money involved.
'Brian Kennedy thought their work was far too pricey and wanted to know where the money was being spent. He wasn’t satisfied with their answers and the contract was not renewed.
‘Madeleine’s parents, Gerry and Kate, have been kept informed all along and agree with the decision. A lot of people were asking questions about where the money was being spent.’
Kate and Gerry McCann agree with the decision to drop Oakley International
Oakley International won the contract after an introduction by another company, Red Defence International (RDI), based in Jermyn Street, Central London.
Listed as being involved with both companies was Mr Halligen, 47, a communications expert. He is given as the ‘contact name’ for Oakley International Group, a company registered in Washington DC as the manufacturer of search and navigation equipment.
The company says it has annual sales of £33,000 and only one employee, who appears to be Mr Halligen.
The address given for the company is 2550 M Street NW Washington, which is the downtown office of Patton Boggs, one of the largest and most powerful law companies in America.
A source at the law firm said last night that the lawyer who represented Mr Halligen was unavailable for comment.
RDI, formed in 2005, bills itself as ‘an experienced provider of crisis prevention, management and expertise’. It claims to have a presence in Washington DC and Virginia and representation in the Middle East, Africa and Central America.
Brian Kennedy, who has underwritten the search for Madeleine, is dissatisfied with the agency's work
However, its latest set of accounts is two months overdue and it faces being fined by HM Revenue & Customs.
Among the main players working on the McCann contract were Mr Halligen and Henri Exton, 57, who headed the Greater Manchester Police undercover unit until 1993. He then worked for the Government before moving into the private sector.
One day after a crisis meeting last week with the Madeleine fund administrators, Mr Halligen resigned as a director of RDI.
Mr Exton, of Bury, Lancashire, has the Queen’s Police Medal and an OBE. During the Seventies and Eighties his work included uncovering organised crime rings and recruiting supergrasses.
He also infiltrated football gangs, at one stage becoming a leader of the Young Guvnors, who followed Manchester City, and was forced to take part in organised incidents to preserve his cover.
Previously, the McCann fund had employed a Spanish detective agency called Metodo 3. However, the fund lost confidence in them, especially after they announced they would find Madeleine by last Christmas.
She had disappeared from the resort of Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3, 2007, nine days short of her fourth birthday.
A spokesman for the McCanns said yesterday: ‘Kate and Gerry, the fund and their backers have always sought to employ the very best people and resources in the ongoing search for Madeleine.
‘Kate and Gerry, via the fund and the backers, continue to employ many such resources and it is true that Red Defence and Oakley were part of those resources.
‘I simply will not comment on any personnel, financial or operational details whatsoever.’
No one could be reached for comment at Oakley International or Red Defence International.
Mr Kennedy, estimated to be worth about £250million, became involved after being moved by the plight of the McCanns during the period they were made formal suspects – arguidos – in Madeleine’s disappearance. Portuguese prosecutors dropped the couple’s arguido status last month.
The 47-year-old made his money in double-glazing and home improvement ventures with companies including Everest windows. His Latium Group business empire has an annual turnover of about £400million.
Madeleine McCann's parents hire US private investigators
Madeleine McCann's parents have hired a US private investigator firm made up of former CIA and FBI agents and special forces veterans as part of a renewed push to find their missing daughter, it was reported.
By Aislinn Simpson Last Updated: 8:47AM BST 13 Aug 2008
The team are said to be taking over primary responsibility for the investigating into Madeleine's disappearance, although the Spanish firm Metodo 3, which has until now spearheaded the search, will continue to follow up information from Spain and Portugal.
The news comes shortly after Portuguese police shelved the case and released a 30,000 page dossier detailing their investigation.
The dossier has revealed thousands of potential sightings of the three-year-old following her disappearance from the family's rented holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve on May 3 last year.
The US firm, which has not been named, is said to have been offered a £500,000 six-month contract by the Find Madeleine Fund, which has received donations from several wealthy benefactors and wellwishers around the world.
However, according to previous reports, there is only £500,000 left in the fighting fund.
A friend of Kate and Gerry McCann said of the hiring: "It was felt that a truly international firm was now needed to lead the inquiry. These really are the big boys."
Last month, the couple, both doctors from Rothley in Leicestershire, had their status as suspects in the Portuguese police inquiry lifted.
The release of the police dossier revealed that police tried to elicit a confession from Gerry McCann by telling him that conclusive DNA evidence that been found linking his daughter to a car the family hired after her disappearance.
The dossier also included details of sightings around the world, including in the Caribbean, Belgium and Holland.
Jul 22 2008
But they have privately expressed dissatisfaction with the Portuguese police for some time and pursued their own investigation.
The couple felt the search for Madeleine had stalled while they were at the centre of the inquiry.
This is one of the main reasons why they have since September employed their own private investigators to look for their daughter.
Now the police have stopped actively investigating Madeleine’s disappearance, these detective agencies will lead the worldwide hunt for the missing child.
At present they are not short of resources - the McCanns have several wealthy backers and a “fighting fund” with a healthy balance.
And these private detectives will receive a major boost when the family’s lawyers gain access to the Portuguese police files this week.
This will give them both an idea of what has been ruled out and many new avenues for investigation.
Mr and Mrs McCann have vowed that they will never give up looking for Madeleine.