California has used a draconian law to seize millions of pounds worth of assets belonging to Britons, including some of the biggest names in show business.
Dame Helen Mirren has fallen victim to legislation that allows the Californian Government to take possession of bank accounts, stocks and the contents of security deposit boxes if they are dormant for longer than three years.
Apart from Mirren, the others who have fallen victim to the law are Kate Winslett, Clive Owen, Sir Michael Caine and the Irish actor Colin Farrell.
The law has affected thousands of British citizens. More than 1,300 individuals from London alone believed to have assets claimed by the "Golden state", an investigation by ITV1''s Tonight programme has revealed.
State records seen by The Daily Telegraph reveal a number of high-profile names whose property is now in the hands of the state.
While the sums lost are not likely to dent the fortunes of their celebrity owners, they have been seized without any notification. If they were property held in deposit boxes, rather than cash, they may have been sold by the state and their value cannot be reclaimed once they discover it is missing.
Clive Owen has had five unclaimed amounts seized, with a total value of 4,658.84 dollars, while Colin Farrell has lost 1,113.93 dollars. The British actress Thandie Newton and Americans Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon have also fallen victim to the law.
Bill Palmer, an American lawyer leading a class-action lawsuit against California – which has major financial problems – is representing six million people from around the world who have allegedly had money or stocks seized under the Unclaimed Property Law.
Palmer claims that California has failed in its obligation to make "reasonable" attempts to contact the owners of assets before state appropriation takes place.