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General News of Sunday, 5 September 2021


'It's been complete, utter nightmare' - Phil Middlemiss on Airbus bribery scandal

Phil Middlemiss Phil Middlemiss

Former Coronation Street star Phil Middlemiss has spoken for the first time about how he found himself embroiled in a multi-billion-pound international bribery scandal and facing up to 25 years behind bars.

His Coronation Street character, bookie Des Barnes, was never far from mischief during his eight years on the cobbles.

But even the loveable rogue would have put long odds on 1990s soap star Phil being caught up in the costliest global bribery scandal of all time, accused of involvement in corruption at the highest level of government in Ghana.

His nightmare is not yet over and the star reveals the allegations have already turned his life upside down, racked up huge legal costs, and left him living in a rented house after his family home was repossessed, suffering panic attacks and being assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s amazing someone like myself could go out there and get wrapped up in this,” says the 58-year-old, who denies any wrongdoing. “Suddenly I went from being a rogue on the cobbles to ‘lord of war’, according to one of the African newspapers.”

The actor has spent the past two years facing possible prosecution by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office in relation to allegations of bribery and corruption and the £50million sale of three C-295 military planes by global aerospace giant Airbus to the Ghanaian government.

He has also been named as a suspect in a separate investigation in the African country, where the penalty for bribing a public official is imprisonment for up to 25 years.

In 2019 Airbus agreed to pay a record $4billion fine to the UK, France and US after a four-year investigation in more than 12 countries found the firm bribed public officials and hid the payments in a web of worldwide corruption.

“It’s been a complete, utter nightmare,” he says. “I have felt despair and helplessness. During the heat of all this, there didn’t seem to be any way out.”

So how did an actor from Hartlepool, Teesside, who also starred in Sunday night hit Where The Heart Is, find himself involved with a multi-national conglomerate and Ghanaian politics?

It all started with a film project Phil was working on in the UK in 2009. Best friends with a British-Ghanaian, who he doesn’t want to name for legal reasons, Phil says he decided to pay him a working visit to explore locations and facilities.

“We were friends from the age of 18, he was living and working in Ghana at the time so I thought what a great opportunity. I’d never been to West Africa, I was enamoured as soon as I got there. It was such a vibrant country. I must have gone 30-40 times.”

The film never got made, he says due to investors pulling out, but he developed a taste for entrepreneurship in the country.

“I began the process of starting a drama school and a performing arts centre,” he says. Other projects included a glass factory, boutique hotel, even a theme park.

Although most didn’t come to fruition, they did win the actor many contacts across Governmental departments.

He says Airbus sought them out in early 2010, and asked for their assistance with the sale of their C-295 aircraft to Ghana. In retrospect, he knows alarm bells should perhaps have been ringing.