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‘Bomb detectors’ sold by Briton were novelty ball finders, court told

Countries including Iraq and Georgia paid dearly for devices that retailed at $20 in US

A British businessman sold fake bomb detectors to Iraq, a country at war, for up to $40,000 each, the Old Bailey heard. Other governments around the world were also supplied with the devices which was based on nothing more than a novelty “golfball finder” for huge sums.

James McCormick marketed his products, which could be bought for around $20 in the US, with the claim that it was able to locate a variety of items including fluids, ivory and hidden people as well as all kinds of explosives. They were able to operate, he had maintained, through walls, underwater and underground.

Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, told the jury that the “fantastic” claims made by Mr McCormick, 56, of Langport, Somerset, were based on no scientific evidence: “The devices did not work and he knew they did not work. He had them manufactured so that they could be sold – and despite the fact they did not work, people bought them for a handsome but unwarranted profit.”

As well as Iraq, the “detectors” were also bought by countries such as Georgia and Niger. Mr Whittam told the court that experts would give evidence that even the most expensive of the models, ADE 651, “lacks any grounding in science, nor does it work in accordance with the known laws of physics. The ADE 651 is completely ineffectual as a piece of detection equipment”.

McCormick had used an International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators’ logo for his company, Advanced Detection Equipment, something he had no right to do, the QC said. His enterprise had begun with the purchase of 300 Golfinder machines for finding golf balls from the US between 2005 and 2006. They were advertised as a “great novelty item” which used the customer’s body to “energise its actions”.

The first “detector” he produced, the ADE 10O, was really the golf ball finder with different markings.

The more “sophisticated” and more expensive models he produced included more parts, but the devices themselves continued to be useless, claimed the prosecution. “During 2007 the volume of devices required by James McCormick increased. He said this was due to a large contract he had obtained with the Iraqi government,” said Mr Whittam.

Mr McCormick’s international sales prospered. “Sensor” cards slotted into the machine were colour-coded. Supposedly orange for explosives, blue for drugs and red for humans. Brochures featured men of action in combat fatigues; some had Arabic writing on them for the Iraqi and other Arab markets.

“He made them knowing that they were going to be sold as something that it was claimed was simply fantastic. You may think those claims are incredible,” said Mr Whittam.

After his arrest, McCormick said he had heard of the technology in 1994 and had reinvented it. He had, he declared, used basic high school physics to come up with a mock version which worked.

“It’s a phenomenon. It’s been known for a number of years,” the businessman allegedly told the police.

The sensor cards were put into a Kilner jar with a substance for a week to absorb the “vapours” of items they were meant to detect, he explained helpfully.

Mr Whittam told the jury: “The rest is history.” Mr McCormick denies three counts of fraud.

The case continues.