A retired policeman linked to the private detective agency hired to find Madeleine McCann has been arrested on suspicion of helping criminals who stole £25 million of cocaine.
Antonio Jimenez, who has been linked to Metodo 3, the Spanish detective agency hired by the McCann family to find their missing daughter, was last night remanded by a judge investigating alleged police corruption and the theft in 2005 of 1,100?lb of cocaine from a Barcelona dockyard.
The arrest comes amid mounting scepticism about the role of Metodo 3 in the search for Madeleine, who disappeared on May 3 last year while on holiday with her family in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
Metodo 3, whose contract with Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry expires next month and has yet to be renewed, was criticised last year when Francisco Marco, its managing director, spoke of finding the four-year-old by Christmas.
It has also emerged that, in 1995, five senior members of the agency were arrested in a phone-tapping case. They were never charged, however, and an investigating judge threw out the case, condemning police entrapment.
Clarence Mitchell, the spokesman for the McCanns, sought to distance Jimenez from Metodo 3.
He said: "He is nothing to do with us. He collaborated with Metodo 3 on a project, but that was two years before the company was hired to find Madeleine.
"We still have faith in the work of Metodo 3."
Mr Marco denied Spanish television reports that Jiminez, 53, has worked for Metodo 3 for three years.
He insisted that Jimenez was, until three weeks ago, a business partner of his mother, Maria Fernandez Lado, who founded Metodo 3. He said Jimenez had been involved with a separate company.
Spanish records, however, reportedly showed that this business had the same listed address as Metodo 3.