Monday, January 25, 2021

UK Tv show star Philip Middlemiss wanted in Ghana over bribery allegations

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A former Coronation Street star is wanted for questioning by police in Ghana over an alleged bribery scandal at the heart of government.

Philip Middlemiss, who during the 1990s played the role of the serial womaniser Des Barnes in the ITV soap, was one of four people to be named by investigators in relation to the sale of military planes to the west African government.

The former actor, 56, moved there after leaving the show in 1998 to make a film but ran out of money before it was finished. He then worked as a travel consultant and claimed in an interview to have befriended the brother of the vice-president.

The bribery investigation he is being sought in connection with relates to the £50 million sale of three Airbus C-295 aircraft to the Ghanaian government between 2009 and 2015.

Ghana was among more than a dozen countries involved in a $4 billion (£3.3 billion) settlement Airbus agreed with European and American investigators over alleged bribes to secure the sales of its aircraft. The US Department of Justice described the deal as the largest ever foreign bribery settlement.

After a four-year investigation, Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said in February that Airbus had hired a close relative of a government official in Ghana who had no aerospace experience, paying him about €5 million (£4.4 million).

John Mahama, Ghana’s former president, is accused of having links to a corrupt network that would receive kickbacks during the contract tendering process.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC), which was in power at the time, has denied the bribery claims.

Martin Amidu, the country’s special prosecutor, began a formal investigation and announced that he had summoned four people and released their passport details online. They include Mr Middlemiss, two other Britons and a dual British-Ghanaian citizen.

In March Mr Amidu revealed that Mr Middlemiss was suspected of working as a project manager for Airbus.

The investigation also includes “collaborating with Ghanaian public officers to use their public office for private profit or benefit in the purchase of three C-295 aircraft by the government of Ghana from Airbus”.

Leanne Davis, Mr Middlemiss’s girlfriend, told The Sun that she had no knowledge of the investigation. “I don’t know anything about that. Phil’s not here. I’m not sure when he’ll be back,” she said. Mr Middlemiss has not responded to a request for comment.

Mr Middlemiss, who is originally from Hartlepool, lives in a £400,000 detached property in Greater Manchester. He studied drama at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic art and appeared in Coronation Street from 1990 to 1998. The character of Des Barnes was killed off against the actor’s wishes.

In 2012 he declared himself bankrupt, citing his abortive attempt to make a film in Africa as the reason for his financial hardship.

He told the Manchester Evening News: “It was partly funded by myself but I didn’t have the money to fund the rest of the film. Filming came to a grinding halt. It was nearly three-quarters of the way along the line.

“It has been a difficult time. Three and a half years is a long time to fund myself without any income. I have had to get money from family and friends.”

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