A Brighton film producer has been banned from being a company director after investors were conned out more than £5 million.
They were told that the money would fund a film called Henry 5 (sic) with an A-list cast.
But Michael Cowan, who turns 53 today, failed to account for much of the money and never made the film.
Cowan – full name Michael Lionello Boscardi di Pallavicini di Zoppini Cowan – set up a company called Warlord Productions which has been shut down by court order.
The company was registered to an office in Regent Hill, Brighton, while Cowan lived at a property in The Promenade, in Peacehaven.
The Insolvency Service – a government agency – said that Cowan had been banned by a court from being a company director for 13 years.
It said: “The disqualification order was made against Mr Cowan following an investigation by the Insolvency Service which also commenced the winding up of Warlord Productions Ltd in the public interest.
“Mr Cowan was the sole director of Warlord Productions Ltd, a company which raised money from members of the public who believed they were investing in a feature film, claiming it would have an A-list cast. The film was never made.
“The official receiver’s investigation uncovered that the company set out to raise £2.5 million for the film Henry 5.
“Despite raising over £5 million from private investors, little if any of the money was used for film production.
“Instead, over £3.4 million went in sales commissions and, of the remaining £1.6 million, £1.15 million was paid to two of Mr Cowan’s other companies and £200,000 towards the purchase of a house without any security being taken.
“To make matters worse, for almost half of its investors by value, the company did not keep records of who the investors were or how much they had invested.
“Consequently, if the film had been made and had generated profits, records weren’t held that would have allowed returns to be made.
“When it became clear that the film would not be made, the company was not in any position to repay monies raised.”
Anthony Hannon, official receiver in the Public Interest Unit, said: “Little if any of the large sums raised from the public were used for the stated purposes and there has been detriment both to the investing members of the public and to the reputation of investment in the UK film industry.
“The Insolvency Service will look closely at any evidence of misconduct and take appropriate action where directors have used investor monies for other purposes.”