Hartlepool-born Coronation Street star tells of relief after shock of finding himself on Interpol's most wanted list
Former Coronation Street star Phil Middlemiss has spoken publicly for the first time about the turmoil of being caught up in an international bribery and corruption scandal.
The 58-year-old Hartlepool-born actor found himself the subject of an Interpol Red Notice that meant he became one of the most wanted people in the world.
The notice was issued by Ghana, in Africa, where he had been working with aerospace firm and aeroplane maker Airbus, which became the focus of multiple bribery and corruption investigations spanning the globe.
Phil, who played Des Barnes in the soap from 1990 to 1998, spoke about the devastation to himself and his family on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Friday after now reportedly being cleared by UK investigators.
He was never charged with anything and has always denied any wrongdoing.
Phil said told Good Morning Britain’s Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway: “I left contact with Airbus in 2014 and had no idea what was going on as most people didn’t.
"There was a so-called slush fund that was set up by certain elements in Airbus.”
He explained he went to Ghana after making ITV drama Where The Heart Is to produce a film and was exploring other projects including setting up a performing arts school for children and tourism opportunities.
Phil said it led to meeting a lot of people in government circles and he became a “facilitator” with Airbus, helping to arrange visas and facilitate meetings.
"Ghana at the time was such an up and coming country,” he said. “There was a lot of people from the UK and Europe that wanted to go in there and set up an infrastructure.”
He said he only became aware of the wide-ranging bribery allegations in the last three years following the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation.
He said: “It’s a very stressful situation, when you get that through the door.
"Everyone was terrified. It’s just something that you don’t expect.”
And speaking about being put on Interpol’s most wanted list, he said: “When I saw the red notice had been issued… my first thought was ‘oh my God’.
“I looked on the red notice and it’s full of the world’s worst as you can imagine. It’s got terrorists and everyone.
“It printed all my passport details, where I lived and my telephone number, countries I was likely to visit which I’d never been to any of them.”
Under aliases it said he may be travelling under the name ‘Des Barnes’.
But Phil said he was thought it was a fake and when nothing happened after 20 months he tested the situation by going through an airport and remaining unchallenged.
In January 2020, Airbus SE was ordered to pay a record-breaking £3 billion in fines and costs in a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) made in London’s High Court.
Phil told Good Morning Britain he had lost his house and car during the SFO probe but said he stayed strong with the support of his wife and friends.
“Luckily I’ve got great friends and a great support network,” he said.
"Everyone stood by me that’s a real friend.”
Airbus is one of the two largest manufacturers of commercial aircraft in the world along with Boeing. It also manufactures helicopters, military transports and satellites.