Coronation Street star became one of world’s most wanted amid bribery scandal

Ex-Coronation Street actor Phil Middlemiss found himself caught up in a multi-billion pound bribery scandal and facing up to 25 years locked up behind bars.

The star, who played bookie Des Barnes, was accused of involvement in corruption at the highest level of government in Ghana.

He has now spoke of his "despair" over the situation, which has already racked up enormous legal costs, caused him panic attacks and to be assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Phil's home was also repossessed, forcing him to move into a rented house in Manchester with his wife Leanne, 44, and their two teenage sons, who are 18 and 15.

The 58-year-old, who denies accusations, said: "I went from being a rogue on the cobbles to 'lord of war', according to one of the African newspapers."

He added to The Mirror: "It's been a complete, utter nightmare. I have felt despair and helplessness. During the heat of all this there didn't seem to be any way out."

He's spent the past two years facing possible prosecution from the UK's Serious Fraud Office relating to allegations of bribery and corruption and the sale of three military planes by Airbus to the Ghanaian government, valued at £50million.

In 2019, Airbus agreed to pay a record $4billion (£2.9b) fine to the UK, US and France after a four-year investigation in more than 12 countries found that the company bribed public officials and hid the payments.

Phil has been named as a suspect in a separate investigation in Ghana too, with the penalty for bribing a public official being up to 25 years in prison.

The Hartlepool-born actor found himself involved after working on a film in the UK in 2009.

He visited a British-Ghanaian friend – who he is choosing not to name for legal reasons – for work research, to look around locations and facilities.

Due to investors pulling out, the film never got made but he began starting up a drama school and performing arts centre there, as well as a glass factory, hotel and theme park.

Most of his projects never came to completion, but they did get Phil a number of contacts across the government of Ghana.

He claims Airbus found him in early 2010 and asked for his assistance in selling their C-295 aircraft to Ghana – something he now says should have caused alarm bells to ring.

The businessman was tasked with sorting out meetings, transport and visas for Airbus staff, and he claims he would be "paid on a commission basis following the successful sale of its planes".

He claims no illegal incentives were offered to him while working with Airbus, and that he did not offer any to other people.

"I never received one single penny and thank God I didn't," he added. "As it goes they never offered it."

He claims he and his friends covered costs, despite visiting the Airbus HQ in Paris, as they were hoping for the commission and long-term work with the company.

Phil's contact with Airbus ended in 2013 and he is unable to discuss how much commission he received due to pending court action.

Then, in 2019, a letter from the Serious Fraud Office arrived, inviting him to a voluntary interview under caution "to answer allegations of bribery and corruption" – which was something that left him in "total shock".

It never took place, but after an international investigation's report on Ghana was published, Ghana's then-special prosecutor Martin Amidu launched another probe.

The new investigation named those alleged to be involved, including Phil, former Ghana president John Mahama, and three other Brits.

Mahama's part, the National Democratic Congress, completely denies the allegation.

Those named in the probe were "invited" to Ghana to help with the investigation, but Phil says he doesn't plan on getting involved, saying the allegations are politically motivated and baseless.

But in 2020 he was dealt another blow, when he discovered that Interpol had issued a Red Notice on him.

"A fugitive wanted for prosecution," he said, "the Ghana Government sent this out all over every media platform."

It included his address and passport details, and that he may be "travelling under his alias, Des Barnes" to avoid being caught.

Phil said: "It may seem laughable now but to have your personal details all over the internet was disturbing."

After almost two years of what he says was "hell", just three months ago, he was informed by the Serious Fraud Office that he would not be prosecuted "following a review of the evidence".

Phil said that his former co-stars Charlie Lawson and Simon Gregson have supported him through the ordeal.

He now plans to take legal action against the Serious Fraud Office and sue for damages.

His lawyer, Adam Rasul of Holborn Adams, said: "The poor investigation by the SFO and subsequent no further action has had a catastrophic impact on Mr Middlemiss. We are advising him on an action against the SFO along with civil remedies that include psychological/psychiatric damage."

An SFO spokesperson said: “Following our investigation, Airbus admitted to widespread corruption in several countries and were handed a record-breaking fine of approximately £3billion. The SFO is committed to caring for victims or witnesses of fraud or corruption fairly, with dignity and respect.”

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