A British businessman who sold bogus bomb detectors to countries at war where hundreds of people were dying and injured by explosive devices has been found guilty of fraud at the Old Bailey.
James McCormick made massive sums of money selling novelty ‘golf ball finders’ worth just $20 (£13) for up to $40,000 each. His maximum profits were from the vicious war in Iraq which became a byword for terrible suffering. The 57-year-old former policeman sold the devices to the government in Baghdad over a period of years for a total of $75 million.
McCormick had claimed that the ‘detectors’ could trace “everything from explosives to elephants” including narcotics, different types of fluids, gemstones, ivory and hidden people. They were able to operate, he maintained, through walls, underwater and underground.
In reality the equipment which was supposed to keep people safe from the bombers were useless. The aerial which was supposed to ‘sense’ the items was unconnected and there were no discernible power sources. A series of scientists who had tested the various models found nothing to justify the claims being made for them by McCormick’s company, ATSC, around the world.
Pakistan, Lebanon, Mexico and Thailand, states which faced murderous criminal and political violence, were other customers. There are allegations that in at least one of the markets, Iraq, there was bribery on a staggering scale to secure the deals. Major General Jihad al-Jabiri, the head of the Interior Ministry’s directorate for combat explosives, is now in jail on corruption charges. Defending the ‘detectors’ he had said “I don’t care what they say, I know more about bombs than the Americans do. In fact, I know more about bombs than anyone in the world”.
Detective Superintendent Nigel Rock of Avon and Somerset Police, who carried out the successful investigation leading to the case, warned the ‘detectors’ was still being used in some countries. He said “That device has been used and is still being used on checkpoints. People using that device believe it works, it does not. We have heard evidence from many, many experts, scientists, leaders in their field, who have said this was a fraud, a sham.
McCormick, from Langport, Somerset owned a a £3.5 million house in The Circus, Bath, where the actor Nicholas Cage was a neighbour, a £600,000 Sunseeker motor yacht, called Aesthete and a farmhouse with paddocks in Somerset, worth another £2 million. Restraint orders have been put on around £7 million worth of assets, while others are still being traced; no significant sums of cash have been found so far.
He was remanded on conditional bail to be sentenced on May 2.