Unmade: The pair behind the Henry 5 film will not be charged
Two men behind a multi-million pound film project that collapsed in controversial circumstances are to escape prosecution after police ruled that their own expert witness was unreliable.
Michael Cowan, 56, from Peacehaven in East Sussex, and Steven Wilkinson, 50, of Ockley in Surrey, raised more than £5million from investors who believed they were backing a star-studded modern remake of Shakespeare’s Henry V.
In 2013, I warned that salesmen marketing shares in the film called Henry 5 claimed that it would star Michael Caine, Ray Winstone, Gerard Depardieu and Vinnie Jones.
But the stars themselves knew nothing about the film – and had never agreed to appear in it.
An investigation by the Insolvency Service found £3.4 million had been paid to salesmen as commission, and more than £1million had been transferred to firms run by Cowan.
In 2015, the High Court ordered the winding-up of Warlord Productions, the company supposed to produce the film.
Sussex Police opened an investigation into alleged fraud. Now, after years of work, police have told investors they are dropping the case.
Detective Inspector Mark O’Brien of the Economic Crime Unit told investors that ‘financing in the film industry can be high risk’. He added: ‘In order to completely understand the film industry norms, we identified and engaged a potential expert witness.
‘However, after careful consideration, it was clear we cannot rely on this individual for a number of evidential reasons.
‘This leaves the police unable to effectively prove the issue of dishonesty to the necessary standard, and whether the activity of individuals was criminal.’
A police spokesman declined to give details of the expert witness, or to explain why another expert could not be hired. But he said if new evidence appeared, police could reconsider, and that ‘in the meantime there is nothing to prevent investors seeking civil redress’.
The Financial Conduct Authority had said the investment scheme was unauthorised, an offence in itself which could be prosecuted by the FCA.
However, the City watchdog says it will take no action as ‘the decision not to proceed was properly made by the police’.
The only penalties suffered by Cowan and Wilkinson are that both are currently banned from acting as company directors.