• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 6:39am

Briton James McCormick jailed for 10 years for selling fake bomb detectors

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 May, 2013, 7:37pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 May, 2013, 7:37pm

A British millionaire was on Thursday jailed for 10 years for selling fake bomb detectors to the Iraqi government and other countries, by a judge who told him he had blood on his hands.

James McCormick made an estimated £50 million (HK$604 million) from selling the devices, which prosecutors said were based on a novelty golf ball finder and had no scientific basis.

Last week, a jury at London’s Old Bailey found the 57-year-old guilty of three counts of fraud.

Passing sentence at the court on Thursday, judge Richard Hone said McCormick’s “callous confidence trick” had likely cost lives.

“I am wholly satisfied that your fraudulent conduct in selling so many useless devices for simply enormous profit promoted a false sense of security and in all probability materially contributed to causing death and injury to innocent individuals,” he said.

The Advanced Selection Equipment devices were marketed to governments and security organisations in glossy brochures which claimed they could find explosives, drugs, ivory and even people.

McCormick is believed to have made around £37 million from sales to Iraq alone, although other customers included Georgia, Niger, Belgium and even the United Nations, for use in Lebanon.

The businessman, from Somerset in southwest England, told the court he had also sold detectors to the Egyptian army, Kenyan police, Hong Kong’s prison service and Thai border control.

He said one of them had been used to check a hotel in Romania before the visit of a US president in the 1990s, and insisted: “I never had any negative results from customers.”

However, the prosecutor told the jury that McCormick had based his designs on 300 “Golfinder” novelty machines that he bought from the United States between 2005 and 2006.

Colour-coded “sensor cards” – orange for explosives, blue for drugs and red for humans – were slotted into the machines to make them “work”.


More on this story

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

The bulk of these sales must have been made possible by massively bribing the various government officials who signed off on buying what was a patently obviously useless device with a jaw-dropping price-tag. So who was involved in the purchase by the Hong Kong Correctional Services Department? Has anyone asked? Has the ICAC looked into it?


SCMP.com Account