Jail for Briton who sold fake bomb detectors to Iraq

10-year sentence for businessman blamed for deaths of Iraqi civilians killed in Baghdad blasts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 1:35am


A fraudster who sold more than £55 million (HK$664 million) worth of fake bomb detectors to Iraq and other security hot spots has been jailed for 10 years at the Old Bailey court in London.

Jim McCormick, 57, was found guilty of three counts of fraud over the sale of bogus explosive and drug detection devices for as much as £10,000 each, when they were based on £15 novelty golf ball finders.

Justice Hone handed down the maximum sentence for a crime he described as "a callous confidence trick". He said the case was the most serious of its kind that he has known.

After the verdict, Iraqi exiles called for compensation from at least £7 million in assets that are expected to be confiscated from the British businessman.

"He destroyed Iraqi lives," said Nidhal Ailshbib, an Iraqi activist protesting outside the court. "Thousands of Iraqi people are dead and handicapped."

Detectives called for groups or individuals to come forward if they believe they have been victims of explosions that could have been prevented if the bogus bomb detectors worked.

"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," the judge told McCormick as he sat impassive in the dock.

The judge described how McCormick sold, with a small number of agents, 7,000 devices under the ADE brand to the Iraqi government and other international agencies for prices from US$2,500 to US$30,000 per unit, when they cost less than US$50.

"The device was useless, the profit outrageous and your culpability as a fraudster has to be placed in the highest category," he told McCormick.

"Your profits were obscene, funding grand houses, a greedy, extravagant lifestyle and even a yacht. You have neither insight, shame or any sense of remorse."

Prior to sentencing, the court heard statements from British Army officers that bomb blasts killing Iraqi civilians in Baghdad occurred after truck bombs and other explosives had passed through checkpoints manned by security officers using the fake detectors sold by McCormick.

McCormick claimed the gadgets could detect explosives at long range, deep underground, through lead-lined rooms and multiple buildings. But their antennae were not connected to any electronics and had no power source. McCormick's first model was a rebadged golf ball finder described by its US maker as "a great novelty item that you should have fun with".