Posh mansion's starring role in film -- and Nationwide swindle
Published 04/03/2010 | 05:00
An opulent English estate that was once used to swindle almost £14m (€15.5m) from Irish Nationwide has made its film debut in the new Iraq war movie, 'Green Zone' that stars Matt Damon.
Updown Court in Surrey, a palatial spread that boasts its own 50-seater private cinema as well as 103 rooms, five swimming pools and a heated driveway, was used by the movie's director Paul Greengrass to depict a war-torn Baghdad palace in the city's high-security 'Green Zone'. Updown Court, where neighbours include singer Elton John, has been for sale since 2005 with a price tag of about £70m (€77m), making it one of the world's most expensive residential properties.
Irish Nationwide originally became embroiled in Updown Court back in August 2000.
That year, an accountant based in Jersey, Peter Michel, and his personal assistant, Simone Gallichan, entered into an arrangement whereby Updown Court, which had been acquired using criminal proceeds by Barry Bhandal, was used as security to obtain advances totalling £13.6m from Irish Nationwide.
Jersey prosecutors allege this was done, despite knowing that Updown Court had been bought using proceeds from crimes including the fraudulent evasion of duty payable on alcohol, and money laundering.
Some of that money obtained from Irish Nationwide -- about £11.6m -- was funnelled directly back to an associate of Mr Bhandal, Anthony Pearce.
Michel and Gallichan were tried in 2006 and were convicted of one count each related to assisting another to retain the benefit of criminal activity, while in 2007 Michel was convicted of a further nine counts and sentenced to six years in prison.
Gallichan was ordered to undertake community service.
Updown Court was subsequently acquired by Leslie Allen Vercoe in 2002 for £14m with a mortgage from Irish Nationwide's Belfast office.
The building society retains a charge over the property to this day.