The purpose of this site is for information and a record of Gerry McCann's Blog Archives. As most people will appreciate GM deleted all past blogs from the official website. Hopefully this Archive will be helpful to anyone who is interested in Justice for Madeleine Beth McCann. Many Thanks, Pamalam

Note: This site does not belong to the McCanns. It belongs to Pamalam. If you wish to contact the McCanns directly, please use the contact/email details    

Libel Lawyers, PR and Security Companies*

A look at the backgrounds of some of the people the McCanns have chosen to do business with, such as Carter-Ruck, Kevin Halligen and Bell Pottinger, using money donated by the public to find Madeleine.

More items will be added in due course...

Hanover, case studies: McCann Family
Hanover, case studies: McCann Family hanover

Hanover, case studies: McCann Family

CIPR logo

We helped the McCann family deal with the media storm which surrounded them on their return from Portugal in September 2007. From scratch, we created a comprehensive media handling package within six hours which enabled us to handle 850 media calls in the first week. By giving journalists positive stories to report, coverage turned from hostility to the McCanns to sympathy about their ordeal. This campaign won the crisis communication category at the 2008 CIPR awards.


McCanns hire Hanover for PR in face of media onslaught Brand Republic

by David Quainton, PR Week Worldwire
14-Sep-07, 16:05

LONDON - PRWeek can exclusively reveal that Hanover, the agency owned by John Major's former press secretary Charles Lewington, has been hired by Kate and Gerry McCann.

The couple, in a surprise move, have turned to the agency that also works with Nationwide Building Society, NHS Cancer Screening and mobile company 3.

Lewington, managing director of Hanover, said: "At the moment we're providing temporary press office facilities for the McCanns. Justine (McGuinness) has been overwhelmed by the press interest.

The case is very fast moving and our position could change by Monday or Tuesday, depending on what lawyers tell us over the weekend.

"The McCanns have been treated extremely badly by the press, it's only right to help them out."

The McCanns are fighting to clear their name as allegations and suspicion rises concerning the disappearance of their missing four-year-old daughter.

The McCanns previously used Bell Pottinger crisis management consultant Alex Woolfall (who represented holiday firm Mark Warner), Sheree Dodd, a former spokeswoman for the Government, and former treasury special advisor Justine McGuinness.

With prejudice Guardian

Giles Tremlett
Monday September 17, 2007

- Extract -

Hanover PR, run by John Major's former press secretary Charles Lewington, was taking calls over the weekend, but stressed it was not working for the McCanns permanently.

Hanover Calls Time On McCanns PR Week

Hannah Marriott
21 November 2007, 10:57am

Hanover Communications has stopped working with the McCann family.

The agency said the move 'reflects a decrease in international press interest' following the six-month anniversary of Madeleine McCann's disappearance.

Hanover, headed by MD Charles Lewington, was hired to run a UK press office two months ago (20 September 2007).

All media enquiries are now going through the family's spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, a former BBC journalist.

Mitchell was temporarily appointed spokesman to the McCanns by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in May (PRWeek, 24 May 2007). Sheree Dodd and Justine McGuiness have also worked temporarily in the position.

Mitchell later quit his government position to lead the McCanns' comms on a permanent basis.

Mitchell said: 'Without the support of Hanover we simply would not have been able to cope with the level of international press interest.'

Come back now Daily Star (no longer available online)

By Jerry Lawton
06 December 2007

- Extract -

The McCanns have axed the London-based public relations firm that has been representing them since they jetted back to Britain after being named suspects.

Media specialists Hanover had been handling more than 100 calls a day at the start, but now interview requests had dwindled to two.

They charged the Find Madeleine fund £30,000 for their two months of service - around a third their normal rate.

The McCanns' spokesman Clarence Mitchell will now handle all the couple's PR single-handed.

A spokesman for Hanover said: "We have passed the management of the press office to Clarence Mitchell.

"This reflects a decrease in international press interest."

Mr Mitchell said: "We are hugely grateful to Hanover. Without the support of their team we would not have been able to cope with the level of international press interest."

Madeleine McCann fund running short of cash Telegraph

By Nick Britten
Published: 6:38PM GMT 09 Jan 2008

- Extract -

They recently spent £80,000 on a poster campaign in Spain and still owe Hanover International, a public relations company, money for work they did until November, when their involvement ended.

Lawyer of the Week, 08 April 2008
Lawyer of the Week Timesonline

Adam Tudor

By Linda Tsang
April 8, 2008

Adam Tudor, a partner at Carter-Ruck, represents the parents of Madeleine McCann. After stories in the Daily Express and the Daily Star and their Sunday stablemates, the newspapers have made unprecedented front-page apologies to the McCanns for falsely suggesting that the couple caused the death of their daughter and covered it up. The papers will pay £550,000 to the Madeleine fund.

What were the main challenges and the possible implications?

The main challenge was logistical — the sheer size of the task of complaining about more than 100 articles. The implications, I hope, include the media resolving to adopt a more responsible approach to this kind of reporting. Most importantly, I hope that this outcome will remind the world that at the heart of the press hysteria and distortion lies a normal, loving family who simply want to find their daughter.

What was your worst day as a lawyer?

As a trainee, arranging for an entire High Court trial to go to a video-conferencing suite one morning to hear a witness give evidence from Washington. When the cameras were turned on at our end, the office at the other end was in darkness. The witness had gone to another building on the other side of the city.

What was your most memorable experience as a lawyer?

Naturally it would be pretty hard to top Mr and Mrs McCann's victory against Express Group. That aside, there's nothing quite like a libel trial and the tension of a jury verdict. My most memorable was probably when I acted for a local councillor against a tycoon who kept towing banners about her behind his aircraft. The trial went on for a fortnight, my client won very substantial damages and my wife gave birth to our daughter a few hours later.

Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?

I have a wonderful and preternaturally tolerant wife, and two children who keep me very much on my toes. Professionally, I was very lucky to have worked with some superb litigators at Herbert Smith, and at Carter-Ruck I am surrounded by people who are among the leaders in our field.

What would your advice be to anyone wanting a career in law?

Work hard at school and be polite to your parents.

If you had not become a lawyer, what would you have chosen?

The police — not a fashionable answer but although they often (and on occasion deservedly) get a bad press, they serve a crucial role in the community and in society. Sometimes I think I'd like to have been a black cab driver (sociable, be your own boss, own a pad in Spain, etc), then it's pointed out that I have the worst sense of direction in London.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Watching Wales win their 15th Grand Slam with my father and son (and wife and daughter if they fancy it), then nipping over to Barcelona to watch Cardiff City win the Champions League.

How UK oil company Trafigura tried to cover up African pollution disaster, 16 September 2009
How UK oil company Trafigura tried to cover up African pollution disaster Guardian

• Trafigura offers payout to 31,000 victims of toxic dumping
• Secret email trail exposes truth behind £100m legal battle
• Read emails here (PDF)

David Leigh
Wednesday 16 September 2009 15.08 BST

Trafigura chartered the Probo Koala to take the waste to Africa. Photograph: Raigo Pajula/AFP
Trafigura chartered the Probo Koala to take the waste to Africa. Photograph: Raigo Pajula/AFP
The British oil trader Trafigura has offered to pay out in a historic damages claim from 31,000 Africans injured by the dumping of toxic waste in one of the worst pollution disasters in recent history, the Guardian can reveal.

The compensation deal for the victims of toxic oil waste dumping in west Africa – likely to be confirmed imminently – means the full extent of attempts to cover up what really happened can be spelled out for the first time.

The truth is laid bare in Trafigura's hitherto secret documents, published bt the Guardian today.

The company's internal emails show the true nature of the toxic waste dumped around Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast. Trafigura had publicly claimed the waste was harmless.

The exposure of the company files has contributed to Trafigura's climbdown after three years of bitterly contested legal battles. We are publishing them online today.

Martyn Day is a senior partner at the British law firm Leigh Day, which has brought one of the biggest group actions in legal history, seeking damages of £100m. He said today in Abidjan, where he has been negotiating the settlement: "The claimants are very pleased."

He was in the process of putting a global deal to the victims, he said. "The sum being discussed is based on the range of short-term symptoms claimed by our clients."

Thousands of west Africans besieged local hospitals, and a number died, in 2006 after the dumping of hundreds of tons of highly toxic oil waste around Abidjan.

Official local autopsy reports on 12 alleged victims showed fatal levels of the poisonous gas hydrogen sulphide, one of the waste's lethal byproducts.

The traders have been publicly insisting for three years that their waste was routine and harmless. They claim it was "absolutely not dangerous".

They have until now denied the compensation claims, and their lawyers repeatedly threatened anyone worldwide who sought to contradict their version. They launched a libel case against BBC Newsnight, forced a "correction" from the Times, demanded the Guardian deleted articles, and yesterday tried to gag journalists in the Netherlands and Norway with legal threats.

But dozens of damning internal Trafigura emails have now come to light. They reveal how London-based company employers were told in advance that their planned chemical operation, a cheap and dirty process called "caustic washing", generated such dangerous wastes it was widely outlawed.

Claude Dauphin, the managing director, was told by the London manager, Naeem Ahmed, on 28 December 2005: "Caustic washes are banned by most countries due to the hazardous nature of the waste (mercaptans, phenols, smell) … there are not many facilities remaining in the market. There is a company in Rotterdam that burns such waste in a high stack chimney and charges are approximately $200/kg."

An email from Ahmed the previous day to the head of gasoline trading spelled out: "US/Singapore and European terminals no longer allow the use of caustic soda washes since local environmental agencies do not allow disposal of the toxic caustic after treatment."

Transport of such toxic waste across EU borders was outlawed, he told his bosses. It was illegal to dump it on any EU landfill.

The London-based traders pressed on regardless, the documents reveal. They hoped to make profits of $7m a time by buying up what they called "bloody cheap" cargoes of sulphur-contaminated Mexican gasoline.

They decided to try and process the fuel on board a tanker anchored offshore, creating toxic waste they called "slops".

One trader wrote, on 10 March 2006: "I don't know how we dispose of the slops and I don't imply we would dump them, but for sure, there must be some way to pay someone to take them."

The resulting black, stinking, slurry was eventually dumped around landfills in Abidjan, after Trafigura paid an unqualified local man to take it away in tanker trucks at a cheap rate.

Trafigura's libel lawyers, Carter-Ruck, recently demanded the Guardian deleted published articles, saying it was "gravely defamatory" and "untrue" to say Trafigura's waste had been dumped cheaply and could have caused deaths and serious injuries. Both the Dutch paper Volkskrant and Norwegian TV said they were yesterday also threatened with gagging actions.

Trafigura launched a libel action against BBC Newsnight, complaining Trafigura had been wrongly accused of causing deaths, disfigurement and miscarriages, and had "suffered serious damage to their reputation".

The BBC filed a fighting defence this week, accusing Trafigura of knowing its chemicals were "highly toxic, potentially lethal and posed a serious risk to public health". The BBC also alleges a cover-up, saying Trafigura's denials "lack credibility and candour".

Newsnight plans to transmit another programme on the subject on BBC2 tonight.

The UN human rights special rapporteur Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu criticised Trafigura for potentially "stifling independent reporting and public criticism" in a report the oil traders tried and failed to prevent being published in Geneva this week.

The report said Ibeanu "views with great concern reports that the company has filed or threatened to file lawsuits against various civil society and media institutions that have reported … in a critical manner".

He wrote: "According to official estimates, there were 15 deaths, 69 persons hospitalised and more than 108,000 medical consultations … there seems to be strong prima facie evidence that the reported deaths and adverse health consequences are related to the dumping."

The report is written in cautious terms, but Trafigura's lobbyists, Bell Pottinger, responded by claiming to be "appalled", saying it was "premature", "inaccurate", "potentially damaging", "poorly researched", and "deeply flawed".

Yesterday Greenpeace, which has been investigating the issue, along with Amnesty, launched a legal action in Amsterdam calling for the oil firm to be prosecuted there for homicide or grievous bodily harm. It said: "This intentional pollution … has caused many people to suffer serious injuries and has even led to death."

Trafigura said it "utterly rejected" claims of a cover-up. "Every statement that has been made … has been made in good faith."

The traders said the autopsy reports were unreliable, and that hydrogen sulphide in the waste was only there in "potential" form. It has never actually been released. They said the emails contained "crude and distasteful" language, but had been taken "out of context" and should "not be taken literally".

They repeated denials that the slops could have caused death or serious injury, and were highly toxic. They denied lying about the composition of the slops.

Trafigura says it is the world's third-biggest private oil trader, and declared a $440m profit last year. Its 200 traders are reported to receive annual bonuses of up to $1m each.

Inside Trafigura: Accusations, sour deals and friends in high places Guardian

David Leigh
Wednesday 16 September 2009 22.44 BST


Asked about this history, Bell Pottinger, the firm founded by Tim Bell, and which acts as Trafigura's spin doctors, told us: "Trafigura has always done its business in an ethical and transparent manner."

Trafigura sues BBC for libel Carter-Ruck Press Release

15 May 2009

Trafigura Limited, a member of Trafigura Group, the leading commodities trader, has today issued proceedings for libel against the BBC in the High Court in London.

The action relates to a broadcast on the Newsnight programme on 13 May 2009 and three related stories on the BBC website, concerning the
Probo Koala, a Trafigura-chartered vessel which discharged slops in Côte d’Ivoire in August 2006.

Speaking today, a Trafigura spokesman said:

"Trafigura has today brought libel proceedings against the BBC over itsNewsnight broadcast. This decision was not taken lightly.

Trafigura has always accepted that the Probo Koala 'incident' is a matter of public

interest and has never objected to the media reporting on it responsibly. However, the BBC's one-sided reports on 13 May were wildly inaccurate and libellous, leaving us with no choice but to take legal action. There was no justification or public interest in the BBC misleading its viewers in this way.

Trafigura has always denied that the slops caused the deaths and serious health consequences presented by the BBC – a position fully supported by independent expert evidence which will be presented to the Court in due course. As the BBC is well aware, these matters are already the subject of a personal injury action currently taking place in London. It is deeply regrettable that the BBC felt it appropriate to prejudge those proceedings in this sensationalist and inaccurate


Please direct any queries to:
Adam Tudor, Carter-Ruck

Tel: 020 7353 5005


Neil Cameron, Bell Pottinger

Tel: 020 7861 2497

Kevin Halligen and the Trafigura connection

Kevin Halligen apparently cost Madeleine's Fund £100,000 pm + expenses

Excerpt from 'The McCann Files' by Mark Hollingsworth (see below for complete article which has now been removed online):

'After leaving the AEA, Halligen set up Red Defence International Ltd as an international security and political risk company, advising clients on the risks involved in investing and doing business in unstable, war-torn and corrupt countries. He worked closely with political risk companies and was a persuasive advocate of IT security. In 2006, he struck gold when hired by Trafigura, the Dutch commodities trading company. Executives were imprisoned in the Ivory Coast after toxic waste was dumped in landfills near its biggest city Abidjan. Trafigura was blamed and hired Red Defence International at vast expense to help with the negotiations to release its executives. A Falcon business jet was rented for several months during the operation and it was Halligen's first taste of the good life. The case only ended when Trafigura paid $197 million to the government of the Ivory Coast to secure the release of the prisoners.'

Kevin Halligen's involvement with the McCanns that drained Madeleine's Fund of £500,000

McCanns hire crack team of ex-FBI agents to find Madeleine, 13 August 2008
McCanns hire crack team of ex-FBI agents to find Madeleine Daily Mail

Last updated at 12:25 PM on 13th August 2008

Kate and Gerry McCann have hired a team of crack U.S detectives to lead the hunt for their missing daughter Madeleine, it has emerged.

The unnamed US firm is said to have been offered a £500,000 six-month contract by the Find Madeleine Fun to help spearhead the search.

A friend of the McCanns said: 'The hunt for Madeleine is becoming more and more international and it was felt that a truly international firm was now needed to lead the inquiry.

"These really are the big boys. They are absolutely the best, but they are extremely secretive and cloak-and-dagger about what they do.

'Since their appointment, Metodo has very much taken a back seat and they are now concentrating primarily in Portugal and Spain and across the Straits of Gibraltar into north Africa, where they have their main contacts.

'The American agency is pretty much handling everything else.'

The secretive firm is said to employ ex-FBI, CIA and U.S special forces, according to the Daily Mirror.

The McCanns' spokesman Clarence Mitchell, said: 'Kate and Gerry made it clear from the outset they would leave no stone unturned in finding Madeleine and that means employing the very best people in any given field.

'It is correct that an international firm of investigators have been appointed.

'But I am unable to say anything at all about them because of the covert nature of their work and the need for secrecy, not only in looking for Madeleine, but also in relation to previous operations.'

The McCanns now have detectives working around the world at a reported cost of £166,000 a month.

Among the possible sightings they are following up, apparently ignored by Portuguese police, is one by a British yachtsman on the Caribbean island of Margarita last May.

The appointment of the U.S firm comes after it was revealed that a suspected sighting of Madeleine in Brussels was ruled out by police.

A blonde girl had been seen with a woman in a hijab at the KBC bank in the Belgium capital and the McCanns had been treating the sighting as a priority.

However their hopes were dashed when a man came forward and confirmed that the girl was his daughter out with her nanny.

Secret A-Team in hunt for Maddie, 14 August 2008
Secret A-Team in hunt for Maddie Daily Star (no longer available online)

By Jerry Lawton
14th August 2008

Desperate Kate and Gerry McCann have forked out £500,000 on an "A-Team" of former top spooks to find missing daughter Madeleine.

The couple now have "a global operation" of dozens of retired FBI, CIA and even MI5 agents dedicated to solving the mystery of her disappearance.

The top secret team has been given six months to solve the riddle.

Doctors Kate and Gerry, both 40, have vowed to keep up the search for five-year-old Madeleine after the latest sighting at a Belgian bank was ruled out.

And the couple, from Rothley, Leics, have been reassured their new team of private eyes will follow up every lead around the world.

Their spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "There is a global operation working for Kate and Gerry.

"They are internationally-based with components in Britain, America, Europe and other countries where sightings have been made."

The new team, appointed three months ago, is half way through a six-month contract.

Mr Mitchell explained: "A sum of £500,000 has been committed to them from the Find Madeleine Fund.

"They have been on board for a few months and are on a six-month contract.

"For security reasons we can't go into detail of the experts involved but it would not be wrong to say some are former military and police personnel with a degree of expertise."

Last night Mr Mitchell revealed there had been several more sightings of Madeleine in Belgium on top of 30 reported in the past week.

He said: "A number of these sightings have been well-meaning and have been looked at but ruled out.

"Kate and Gerry are not getting excited or upset by the reported sightings."

A family source added: "Unfortunately, with all the publicity, there have been some copycat sightings which police are not taking at all seriously."

The couple's Spanish-based detective agency Metodo 3 are still working on an £8,000-a-month retainer.

They are being kept on because of their local knowledge and contacts.

Mr Mitchell explained: "Spain, Portugal and North Africa still remain the most likely places where Madeleine could be.

"However, with recent sightings in Amsterdam and Brussels, we have the power to have investigators out on the ground immediately."

Madeleine fund in chaos as private eyes are axed after draining £500,000, 23 August 2008
Madeleine fund in chaos as private eyes are axed after draining £500,000 Daily Mail (no longer available online)

Mail on Sunday, 24 August 2008

Last updated at 10:14 PM on 23rd August 2008

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.'

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.

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: Investigators axed after being paid £500,000, 24 August 2008
Madeleine McCann: Investigators axed after being paid £500,000 Telegraph (no longer available online)

A firm of private investigators hired to hunt for Madeleine McCann have been dropped after being paid £500,000.

By Subhajit Banerjee
Last Updated: 10:46AM BST 24 Aug 2008

The US-based team had been given a six-month contract earlier this year and were paid from money donated to the Find Madeleine Fund.

Their contract will not be renewed after double-glazing tycoon Brian Kennedy - who is underwriting the fund's search - became unhappy with the progress it was making.

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 Madeleine sightings.

Mr Kennedy reportedly believes the agency's bills - estimated to be over £80,000 a month - were not justified by their results, the Mail on Sunday reports.

Madeleine's parents Gerry and Kate McCann have been kept informed all along and agree with the decision.

Oakley International Group, a company registered in Washington DC as the manufacturer of search and navigation equipment, is run by Briton Kevin Halligen.

Madeleine McCann 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 refused to comment on 'personnel, financial or operational details'.


Madeleine McCann: Investigators dropped after being paid £500,000
Telegraph (no longer available online)

A firm of private investigators hired to hunt for Madeleine McCann are being dropped after being paid £500,000.

By Richard Edwards and Subhajit Banerjee
Last Updated: 2:30PM BST 24 Aug 2008

The US-based team, which boasts former British security service and FBI contacts, had been given a six-month contract earlier this year and were paid from the Find Madeleine Fund.

It is understood their contract will not be renewed at the end of the month in a review led by double-glazing tycoon Brian Kennedy - who is underwriting the fund's search.

Oakley International was hired discreetly just before the anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May. It monitored a Madeleine Hotline number, followed up leads and reviewed CCTV footage of possible sightings.

Mr Kennedy reportedly believes the agency's bills - estimated to be over £80,000 a month - were not justified by their results.

Most of the money spent on the agency came from a £550,000 libel pay out from Express Newspapers in March. Around £450,000 remains in the fund.

Several private investigators have been used to track down the missing girl, including Metedo3, a Spanish agency. The fund lost confidence in them, especially after they announced they would find Madeleine by last Christmas, and the agency is now used only sparingly.

Oakley International won the contract after an introduction by another company, Red Defence International (RDI), based in Jermyn Street, central London.

A spokesman for the McCanns said: "Kate and Gerry, the fund and their backers have continually sought to employ the best people in the search for Madeleine. Red Defence and Oakley International were part of a large number of resources employed in recent months.

"Their contract is continuing for the immediate future and will be reviewed when it ends, as you would expect. We will not be comment on the detail of any personnel, financial or operational arrangements."

Lawyers and investigators for the McCanns are still combing through the police files released in Portugal earlier this month after Mr and Mrs McCann were released from their status as official suspects or "arguidos". They are looking for leads they fear police ignored after focusing the investigation on the McCanns.

"The search is very much ongoing," said the spokesman, "and there is certainly no crisis in the fund."

Madeleine detectives' axing denied, 29 August 2008
Madeleine detectives' axing denied Portugal News online

30/08/2008 (First appeared online 29/08/2008)

Kate and Gerry McCann, parents of missing toddler Madeleine McCann have denied they have decided to axe private investigators Oakley International following allegations the company has drained the McCann’s fund of nearly half a million pounds.

Reports on Sunday claimed they were supported in doing so by Madeleine Fund underwriter Brian Kennedy, a self-made millionaire, who was also said to be dissatisfied with the investigators' work.

It was said he considered their approximate £100,000-per-month fee "excessive" for the results that were being obtained.

This has since been refuted.

A written entry on the official 'Find Madeleine' website said, "In the light of articles in some UK Sunday newspapers this weekend, we feel it is appropriate to comment briefly on our relationship with the investigation company Oakley International.

"We appointed them several months ago to investigate the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. We continue to work with them to this end. The working relationship is managed by Brian Kennedy, who also confirms the relationship with Oakley International continues to be good and that it remains entirely focused on the search for Madeleine".

Oakley International, which is made up of ex-British special forces officers and has FBI contacts, won the contract over the London-based Red Defence International (RDI), though one of the employees, 47-year-old communications expert known as Mr. Halligen, is listed as being involved with both companies.

Weekend reports in the UK claim Halligen is given as the 'contact name' for Oakley International Group, a company registered in Washington DC as the manufacturer of search and navigation equipment, and is also, reportedly, a director of RDI.

company says it has annual sales of around €45,000 and only one employee, which appears to be Mr Halligen.

Initial reports alleged that the day after a crisis meeting last week with the Madeleine Fund administrators, Mr Halligen resigned as a director of RDI.

Previously the McCann Fund had employed a Spanish detective agency called Metodo 3, who were also axed after claims they would 'find Madeleine before Christmas' failed.

A McCann spokesperson 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".

A search that is, according to the McCanns, still continuing.

Edition: 974

Red Defence in Red Zone, 09 October 2008
Red Defence in Red Zone Intelligence Online

09/10/2008 Washington

Fired abruptly by the Find Madeline Fund which has sought to find Madeline McCann, Red Defence International also wrangled in the past with Trafigura.

An affiliate of Red Defence International, a firm headed by Britain's Kevin Halligen, the investigative concern Oakley International Group was hired in March, 2008 to help find Madeleine McCann, the three-year-old British child who vanished in May, 2007 from a hotel on the Portuguese coast.

In late August, the Find Madeline Fund, which bankrolls the search for the child, suddenly cut all links with Oakley International, officially for "inadequate results."

It wasn't the first time that companies owned by Halligen, who took part in MI 5 operations in Northern Ireland, have encountered problems with their customers.

In September, 2006, Red Defence was retained by the Trafigura trading group after two of its senior executives, Claude Dauphin and Jean-Pierre Valentini, were arrested and clapped behind bars in Ivory Coast. A month previously, the Probo Koala, a ship chartered by Trafigura, had discharged toxic waste in dumps in the port of Abidjan.

Red Defence, whose contact with Trafigura was lawyer Marc Aspinall, pulled out all the stops to secure the release of Dauphin and Valentini. Through the firm WatchWood, Red Defence leased a Falcon business jet from the South African group Aerotrade, headed by Fred Rutte, and kept it on stand-by for months, at great expense.

Red Defence additionally approached a private British security concern Oceans Five run by John Nash to ask that it provide commandos to mount an operation to rescue Dauphin and Valentini from Maca prison in Abidjan.

The operation, initially planned for mid-January, 2007, was put back on several occasions. Trafigura, which was negotiating simultaneously with the Ivory Coast authorities for the release of its executives, was worried about the constant postponements and the prohibitive cost of the operation.

It finally cut all ties with Red Defence in February, 2007. Shortly afterwards, Dauphin and Valentini were released after the payment of USD 198 million that was destined to cover the cost of a clean-up of waste from Probo Koala.

Subsequently, Trafigura's lawyer, Aspinall, demanded that sub-contractors hired by Red Defence reimburse some of the money paid to them , threatening legal proceedings.

Following that setback, Halligen moved to the United States and founded Oakley Security Services, whose initials OSS evoked those of the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA. He re-named the firm Oakley International Group and teamed up with the lobbying concern Patton Boggs run by Thomas Boggs.

The McCann files, 29 August 2009
The McCann files ES magazine (London Evening Standard - paper edition only)

ES magazine, 28 August 2009
(Note: This article has already been removed from the online version of ES magazine and replaced by the message: 'Content has been suppressed for editorial and/or legal reasons')

By Mark Hollingsworth 
Issue: Friday 28 August 2009

Disillusioned with the Portuguese police, Gerry and Kate McCann turned to private detectives to find their missing daughter. Instead the efforts of the private eyes served only to scare off witnesses, waste funds and raise false hopes. Mark Hollingsworth investigates the investigators.

It was billed as a 'significant development' in the exhaustive search for Madeleine McCann. At a recent dramatic press conference in London, the lead private investigator David Edgar, a retired Cheshire detective inspector, brandished an E-FIT image of an Australian woman, described her as 'a bit of a Victoria Beckham lookalike', and appealed for help in tracing her. The woman was seen 'looking agitated' outside a restaurant in Barcelona three days after Madeleine's disappearance. 'It is a strong lead', said Edgar, wearing a pin-stripe suit in front of a bank of cameras and microphones. 'Madeleine could have been in Barcelona by that point. The fact the conversation took place near the marina could be significant.'

But within days reporters discovered that the private detectives had failed to make the most basic enquiries before announcing their potential breakthrough. Members of Edgar’s team who visited Barcelona had failed to speak to anyone working at the restaurant near where the agitated woman was seen that night, neglected to ask if the mystery woman had been filmed on CCTV cameras and knew nothing about the arrival of an Australian luxury yacht just after Madeleine vanished.

The apparent flaws in this latest development were another salutary lesson for Kate and Gerry McCann, who have relied on private investigators after the Portuguese police spent more time falsely suspecting the parents than searching for their daughter. For their relations with private detectives have been frustrating, unhappy and controversial ever since their daughter's disappearance in May 2007.

The search has been overseen by the millionaire business Brian Kennedy, 49, who set up Madeleine's Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned, which aimed 'to procure that Madeleine's abduction is thoroughly investigated'. A straight-talking, tough, burly self-made entrepreneur and rugby fanatic, he grew up in a council flat near Tynecastle in Scotland and was brought up as a Jehovah's Witness. He started his working life as a window cleaner and by 2007 had acquired a £350 million fortune from double-glazing and home-improvement ventures. Kennedy was outraged by the police insinuations against the McCanns and, though a stranger, worked tirelessly on their behalf. 'His motivation was sincere,' said someone who worked closely with him. 'He was appalled by the Portuguese police, but he also had visions of flying in by helicopter to rescue Madeleine.'

Kennedy commissioned private detectives to conduct an investigation parallel to the one run by the Portuguese police. But his choice showed how dangerous it is when powerful and wealthy businessmen try to play detective. In September 2007, he hired Metodo 3, an agency based in Barcelona, on a six-month contract and paid it an estimated £50,000 a month. Metodo 3 was hired because of Spain's 'language and cultural connection' with Portugal. 'If we'd had big-booted Brits or, heaven forbid, Americans, we would have had doors slammed in our faces' said Clarence Mitchell, spokesperson for the McCann's at the time. 'And it's quite likely that we could have been charged with hindering the investigation as technically it's illegal in Portugal to undertake a secondary investigation.'

The agency had 35 investigators working on the case in Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco. A hotline was set up for the public to report sightings and suspicions, and the search focussed on Morocco. But the investigation was dogged by over-confidence and braggadocio. 'We know who took Madeleine and hope she will be home by Christmas,' boasted Metodo 3's flamboyant boss Francisco Marco. But no Madeleine materialised and their contract was not renewed.

Until now, few details have emerged about the private investigation during those crucial early months, but an investigation by ES shows that key mistakes were made, which in turn made later enquiries far more challenging.

ES has spoken to several sources close to the private investigations that took place in the first year and discovered that:

* The involvement of Brian Kennedy and his son Patrick in the operation was counter-productive, notably when they were questioned by the local police for acting suspiciously while attempting a 24-hour 'stake out'.

* The relationship between Metodo 3 and the Portuguese police had completely broken down.

* Key witnesses were questioned far too aggressively, so much so that some of them later refused to talk to the police

* Many of the investigators had little experience of the required painstaking forensic detective work.
By April 2008, nearing the first anniversary of the disappearance, Kennedy and the McCanns were desperate. And so when Henri Exton, a former undercover police officer who worked on M15 operations, and Kevin Halligen, a smooth-talking Irishman who claimed to have worked for covert British government intelligence agency GCHQ, walked through the door, their timing was perfect. Their sales pitch was classic James Bond spook-talk: everything had to be 'top secret' and 'on a need to know basis'. The operation would involve 24-hour alert systems, undercover units, satellite imagery and round-the-clock surveillance teams that would fly in at short notice. This sounded very exiting but, as one source close to the investigation told ES, it was also very expensive and ultimately unsuccessful. 'The real job at hand was old-fashioned, tedious, forensic police work rather than these boy's own, glory boy antics,' he said.

But Kennedy was impressed by the license-to-spy presentation and Exton and Halligen were hire for a fee of £100,000 per month plus expenses. Ostensibly, the contract was with Halligen's UK security company, Red Defence International Ltd, and an office was set up in Jermyn Street, in St James's. Only a tiny group of employees did the painstaking investigative work of dealing with thousands of emails and phone calls. Instead, resources were channelled into undercover operations in paedophile rings and among gypsies throughout Europe, encouraged by Kennedy. A five-man surveillance team was dispatched in Portugal, overseen by the experienced Exton, for six weeks.

Born in Belgium in 1951, Exton had been a highly effective undercover officer for the Manchester police. A maverick and dynamic figure, he successfully infiltrated gangs of football hooligans in the 1980's. While not popular among his colleagues, in 1991 he was seconded to work on MI5 undercover operations against drug dealers, gangsters and terrorists, and was later awarded the Queen's Police Medal for 'outstanding bravery'. By all accounts, the charismatic Exton was a dedicated officer. But in November 2002, the stress appeared to have overcome his judgement when he was arrested for shoplifting.

While working on an MI5 surveillance, Exton was caught leaving a tax-free shopping area at Manchester airport with a bottle of perfume he had not paid for. The police were called and he was given the option of the offence being dealt with under caution or to face prosecution. He chose a police caution and so in effect admitted his guilt. Exton was sacked, but was furious about the way he had been treated and threatened to sue MI5. He later set up his own consulting company and moved to Bury in Lancashire.

While Exton, however flawed, was the genuine article as an investigator, Halligen was a very different character. Born in Dublin in 1961, he has been described as a 'Walter Mitty figure'. He used false names to collect prospective clients at airports in order to preserve secrecy, and he called himself 'Kevin' or 'Richard' or 'Patrick' at different times to describe himself to business contacts. There appears to be no reason for all this subterfuge except that he thought this was what agents did. A conspiracy theorist and lover of the secret world, he is obsessed by surveillance gadgets and even installed a covert camera to spy on his own employees. He claimed to have worked for GCHQ, but in fact he was employed by the Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) as head of defence systems in the rather less glamorous field of new information technology, researching the use of 'special batteries'. He told former colleagues and potential girlfriends that he used to work for MI5, MI6 and the CIA. He also claimed that he was nearly kidnapped by the IRA, was involved in the first Gulf War and had been a freefall parachutist.

Very little of this is true. What is true is that Halligen has a degree in electronics, worked on the fringes of the intelligence community while at AEA and does understand government communications. He could also be an astonishingly persuasive, engaging and charming individual. Strikingly self-confident and articulate, he could be generous and clubbable. 'He was very good company but only when it suited him,' says one friend. 'He kept people in compartments.'

After leaving the AEA, Halligen set up Red Defence International Ltd as an international security and political risk company, advising clients on the risks involved in investing and doing business in unstable, war-torn and corrupt countries. He worked closely with political risk companies and was a persuasive advocate of IT security. In 2006, he struck gold when hired by Trafigura, the Dutch commodities trading company. Executives were imprisoned in the Ivory Coast after toxic waste was dumped in landfills near its biggest city Abidjan. Trafigura was blamed and hired Red Defence International at vast expense to help with the negotiations to release its executives. A Falcon business jet was rented for several months during the operation and it was Halligen's first taste of the good life. The case only ended when Trafigura paid $197 million to the government of the Ivory Coast to secure the release of the prisoners.

Halligen made a fortune from Trafigura and was suddenly flying everywhere first-class, staying at the Lansborough and Stafford hotels in London and The Willard hotel in Washington DC for months at a time. In 2007 he set up Oakley International Group and registered at the offices of the prestigious law firm Patton Boggs, in Washington DC, as an international security company. He was now strutting the stage as a self-proclaimed international spy expert and joined the Special Forces Club in Knightsbridge, where he met Exton.

During the Madeleine investigation, Halligen spent vast amounts of time in the HeyJo bar in the basement of the Abracadabra Club near his Jermyn Street office. Armed with a clutch of unregistered mobile phones and a Blackberry, the bar was in effect his office. 'He was there virtually the whole day,' a former colleague told ES. 'He had an amazing tolerance for alcohol and a prodigious memory and so occasionally he would have amazing bursts of intelligence, lucidity and insights. They were very rare but they did happen.'

When not imbibing in St James's, Halligen was in the United States, trying to drum up investors for Oakley International. On 15 August 2008, at the height of the McCann investigation crisis, he persuaded Andre Hollis, a former US Drug enforcement agency official, to write out an $80,000 cheque to Oakley in return for a ten per cent share-holding. The money was then transferred into the private accounts of Halligen and his girlfriend Shirin Trachiotis to finance a holiday in Italy, according to Hollis. In a $6 million lawsuit filed in Fairfax County, Virginia, Hollis alleges that Halligen 'received monies for Oakley's services rendered and deposited the same into his personal accounts' and 'repeatedly and systematically depleted funds from Oakley's bank accounts for inappropriate personal expenses'.

Hollis was not the only victim. Mark Aspinall, a respected lawyer who worked closely with Halligen, invested £500,000 in Oakley and lost the lot. Earlier this year he filed a lawsuit in Washington DC against Halligen claiming $1.4 million in damages. The finances of Oakley International are in chaos and numerous employees, specialist consultants and contractors have not been paid. Some of them now face financial ruin.

Meanwhile, Exton was running the surveillance teams in Portugal and often paying his operatives upfront, so would occasionally be out-of-pocket because Halligen had not transferred funds. Exton genuinely believed that progress was being made and substantial and credible reports on child trafficking were submitted. But by mid-August 2008, Kennedy and Gerry McCann were increasingly concerned by an absence of details of how the money was being spent. At one meeting, Halligen was asked how many men constituted a surveillance team and he produced a piece of paper on which he wrote 'between one and ten'. But he then refused to say how many were working and how much they were being paid.

While Kennedy and Gerry McCann accepted that the mission was extremely difficult and some secrecy was necessary, Halligen was charging very high rates and expenses. And eyebrows were raised when all the money was paid to Oakley International, solely owned and managed by Halligen. One invoice, seen by ES, shows that for 'accrued expenses to May 5, 2008' (just one month into the contract), Oakley charged $74,155. The 'point of contact' was Halligen who provided a UK mobile telephone number.

While Kennedy was ready to accept Halligen at face value, Gerry McCann – sharp, focused and intelligent – was more sceptical. The contract with Oakley International and Halligen was terminated by the end of September 2008, after £500,000-plus expenses had been spent.

For the McCanns it was a bitter experience, Exton has returned to Cheshire and, like so many people, is owed money by Halligen. As for Halligen, he has gone into hiding, leaving a trail of debt and numerous former business associates and creditors looking for him. He was last seen in January of this year in Rome, drinking and spending prodigiously at the Hilton Cavalieri and Excelsior hotels. He is now believed by private investigators, who have been searching for him to serve papers on behalf of creditors, to be in the UK and watching his back. Meanwhile, in the eye of the storm, the McCanns continue the search for their lost daughter.

Oakley International Group's web presence, 19 September 2009

Oakley International Group, screenshot taken 19 September 2009. Click to enlarge

Also of interest...

Government unveils libel law reforms, 15 March 2011
Government unveils libel law reforms The Guardian

Bill introduces 'public interest' defence, aims to end 'libel tourism' and signals end to use of juries in most libel trials

John Plunkett
Tuesday 15 March 2011 14.25 GMT

Ken Clarke: 'The increased threat of costly libel actions has begun to have a chilling effect on ... investigative journalism.' Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

The government on Tuesday unveiled sweeping changes to the libel laws aimed at protecting freedom of speech and bringing an end to so-called "libel tourism" from abroad.

Ken Clarke, the justice secretary, published a draft bill that includes a new "public interest" defence which can be used by defendants in defamation cases and a requirement that claimants can demonstrate substantial harm before they can sue.

The bill will also signal an end to the use of juries in libel trials apart from in exceptional circumstances, and aims to end libel tourism by making it tougher to bring overseas claims which have little connection to the UK in the English courts.

Clarke, unveiling the draft bill on Tuesday alongside minister of state for justice Lord McNally, said the bill would "ensure that anyone who makes a statement of fact or expresses an honest opinion can do so with confidence".

"The right to speak freely and debate issues without fear of censure is a vital cornerstone of a democratic society," he added.

"In recent years, though, the increased threat of costly libel actions has begun to have a chilling effect on scientific and academic debate and investigative journalism."

The bill includes a new statutory defence of truth which will replace the current common law defence of justification. It also includes a statutory defence of honest opinion replacing the current common law defence of fair and honest comment.

In a bid to stamp out libel tourism, a court will not accept jurisdiction unless satisfied that England and Wales is "clearly" the most appropriate place to bring the action against someone who does not live in the UK or an EU member state.

The bill will also remove the presumption in favour of jury trial as part of a series of measures to cut costs and speed up court cases.

The government has also begun a consultation on issues not covered by the draft bill, including responsibility for publication on the internet.

It will ask whether the law should be changed to give greater protection to secondary publishers such as internet service providers and discussion forms.

Clarke said the changes to the libel law proposed in the bill were a result of "public concern brought to a head by attempts [by big corporations] to stifle scientific and academic debate ... Freedom of speech is absolutely essential in a democracy like our own."

McNally added: "We have been trying to get the balance right between proper protections and the oft-used accusation that the law as it operates now creates a chilling effect on free speech and on information right across the board, from academic and scientific work to proper investigative journalism.

"Media organisations are no longer the giants that they once were and they too can be intimidated by very large corporations threatening to take excessive action against them for what would be justifiable criticism. If that is the case it needs to be looked at."

The Libel Reform Campaign welcomed the draft bill but said the government needed to go further in key areas, including a stronger public interest defence and an end of the ability of corporations to sue for libel, a change resisted by the justice secretary today.

The campaign's Dr Evan Harris said: "Those campaigning for libel reform will want to see cross-party recognition that the draft bill is a welcome step forward, but also that it does not yet reflect the extent of full libel reform that is required to properly protect free expression."

Libel reform: government's proposals The Guardian

Read the draft defamation bill and consultation in full

Tuesday 15 March 2011 12.48 GMT

With thanks to Nigel at McCann Files


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