Coronation Streets Phil Middlemiss opens up on facing prison and being wrongly accused of corruption in Ghana
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Phil Middlemiss has spoken out on mistakenly being embroiled in a multi-billion pound international bribery scandal and facing up to 25 years in prison for the first time.
The 58 year old, who starred on Coronation Street as Des Barnes from 1990 to 1998, was accused of being involved in corruption at the highest level of government in Ghana.
He has spent the last two years facing prosecution by the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in relation to allegations of bribery and corruption and the £50million sale of three C-295 military planes to the Ghanaian government.
A separate investigation in the African country named Phil as a suspect of bribing a public official, where the penalty is imprisonment for up to 25 years.
Phil, who denies any wrongdoing, says the allegations have racked up huge legal costs and left him living in a rent house after his family home.
The former soap actor also suffers panic attacks and is being assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Speaking to the Mirror, he said: "It's amazing someone like myself could go out there and get wrapped up in this. Suddenly I went from being a rogue on the cobbles to 'lord of war', according to one of the African newspapers. 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."
The scandal began with Phil working on a film in 2009, paying a British-Ghanian friend a working visit to explore locations and facilities.
Phil said: "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. I began the process of starting a drama school and a performing arts centre," he continued, with the Mirror stating his other projects included a glass factory, boutique hotel and theme park.
Most of the projects didn't come to fruition, but he made contacts within Ghanian governmental departments.
Phil claims that global aerospace company Airbus contacted him in 2010 to ask for his business' assistance with the sale of their C-295 aircraft to Ghana.
He says: "Ghana had lodged an interest in procuring the aircraft before I was even out there, but getting things done in Africa is vastly different to getting things done here. My role was to help the Airbus staff in the country to facilitate meetings, transport and arrange visas on arrival as they usually needed to travel at short notice. I would be paid on a commission basis following the successful sale of its planes."
He says no illegal incentives were offered to him, nor did he offer any to anybody else, saying: "I never received one single penny and thank God I didn't. As it goes they never offered it."
Phil did visit the Airbus HQ in Paris, but insists he and his friends covered all costs themselves.
He explained: "We were doing it for a commission. When you are working with one of the biggest aviation companies in the world, you expect them to know what they are doing."
His contract with the company ended in 2013 and, six years later, he received a letter from the SFO, inviting him to a voluntary interview under caution "to answer allegations of bribery and corruption."
He says: "It was a total shock, not exactly a letter I was expecting," but the interview never took place.
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Following an international investigation report into Airbus last year, Ghana's then special prosecutor Martin Amidu launched a separate probe, naming Phil as one of the alleged people involved alongside former president John Mahama and three other Brits.
He continued: "On July 10, 2020 I was informed Interpol had issued a Red Notice on me. A FUGITIVE WANTED FOR PROSECUTION – the Ghana Government sent this out all over every media platform. Information in this document included my passport details, my address. They said I may be travelling under my alias, Des Barnes, to avoid detection. It may seem laughable now but to have your personal details all over the internet was disturbing."
In June this year, Phil received another letter from the SFO, which stated that "following a review of evidence" he would not be prosecuted for any offence.
He said: "The relief was short-lived and overtaken by anger, why had I been left for that amount of time with no contact or explanation?"
A spokesperson for the SFO said: "Following our investigation, Airbus admitted to widespread corruption in several countries and were handed a record-breaking fine of approximately £3 billion.
"The SFO is committed to caring for victims or witnesses of fraud or corruption fairly, with dignity and respect."
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