MADELEINE McCann may have been taken by sex trafficking gangs helped by police, it's been claimed.
The shocking allegation comes after police in Portugal were said to be probing a "new suspect" and "new clue" in Maddie's disappearance case.
Three-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished during a family holiday in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May 2007.
She had been left sleeping alone with her younger twin siblings while her parents were dining in a nearby tapas restaurant with pals at the seaside complex.
Now John Whitehead from US-based think tank the Rutherford Institute has said he believes Madeleine was taken in a similar way to countless other child kidnappings around the globe.
The think tank recently produced a commentary titled The Essence of Evil: Sex with Children Has Become Big Business in America, which examined how kids are bought, sold and exploited sexually.
It claimed children are taken on their own driveways, abused in the sex industry every two minutes and on average a child may be raped by 6,000 men during five years while being held captive.
When asked if he thinks Maddie may have been taken in a similar way, Mr Whitehead told the Daily Star: "Oh I think she was. Kids are being snatched all over the world.
"When you look at migrant children coming across the border in the US, they just go missing."
Whitehead also claims the child sex industry could be made possible by what he calls "predator cops" — although there is no evidence suggesting Portuguese police were involved in assisting with Maddie's kidnapping.
He brought up a recent sting in Florida in which 277 arrests were made for sex trafficking as an example.
Among those arrested were pharmacists, doctors — and police officers.
The think tank's commentary also referenced the case of a California police sergeant arrested on charges of raping a 16-year-old girl who was held captive and sold for sex.
Whitehead went on to make allegations against border guards in the US as being involved in the business of sex trafficking.
He claims around 1,500 migrant children, both boys and girls, have gone missing.
Whitehead added: "It's big business. You can get more money than from drugs and guns because you have kids doing multiple sex acts a day and they're being filmed."
He added that the child sex trafficking industry could be worth as much as $9.5billion in the US alone, with children as young as four being bought and sold.
Yesterday, Portuguese daily Correio da Manha said detectives looking into Madeleine McCann's disappearance were given extra resources to look at a "new clue" and "new suspect".
The paper also claimed: "Portuguese police admit to being nearer to knowing what happened to Madeleine McCann".
However it added the authorities had "many doubts" she was still alive.
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