Conman James McCormick jailed for 10 years over fake bomb detectors

Judge who told him that he had blood of the innocent on his hands

Kim Sengupta
Thursday 02 May 2013 17:29 BST
James McCormick arrives for sentencing at the Old Bailey
James McCormick arrives for sentencing at the Old Bailey (EPA)

A millionaire British businessman who sold bogus bomb detectors to countries at war, with hundreds being killed and maimed by explosive devices, was jailed for ten years yesterday by a judge who told him that he had blood of the innocent on his hands.

James McCormick is due to be freed under licence after five years of his sentence. However, he also faces another ten years in prison if he fails to disclose the whereabouts of the money - “obscene profits,” said Judge Richard Hone - from the sale of the devices which were based on novelty golf ball finders.

McCormick, a former policeman, made $75 million (£48 million) from the Iraqi government alone. Sequestration orders have been made on properties he owns in Britain which includes a £3.5 million home in Bath which used to be owned by the actor Nicolas Cage, a £2.5 million farmhouse in Somerset and a £600,000 yacht.

Detectives say they are tracing a money trail abroad; a series of hearings will take place, culminating in May next year, about the amount which he would have to surrender. The ‘golf ball finders’, which did not work, cost around $20 (£13) each; McCormick sold them for $40,000 (£26,000) each to the Iraqi government.

A former employee of the company which produced the devices, ATSC, recalled that when McCormick was challenged that the ‘detectors’ did not work, he responded “yes they do, they make lots of money.”

The Iraqi government is expected to make representations to secure some of the money as compensation for bomb victims in the country. However, it is believed that McCormick managed to get his contracts by the use of massive bribes.

Major General Jihad al-Jibiri, the head of the interior ministry’s directorate of combat explosives, is under arrest on suspicion of corruption over the purchase from McCormick.

Judge Hone told McCormick: "What you perpetrated was a callous confidence trick. The device was useless, the profit outrageous and your culpability as a fraudster has to be placed in the highest category. Your profits were obscene, funding grand houses, a greedy and extravagant lifestyle and even a yacht. You have neither insight, shame or any sense of remorse."

"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. You fought the case in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, in a last desperate gamble, you rolled the dice and you lost.

The Old Bailey court heard statements from British army officers that bomb blasts killing civilians in Baghdad occurred after truck bombs and other explosives had passed through checkpoints manned by security officers using the fake detectors. In a statement read out by Richard Whitam QC, prosecuting, Brigadier Simon Marriner said: "The inescapable conclusion is that devices have been detonated after passing through checkpoints. Iraqi civilians have died as a result."

Detective Inspector Ed Heath, a senior officer who investigated the case, said “This is not over by any means, we are tracing where he may have money hidden and this will be actively pursued. He will also have to disclose the whereabouts of funds he has and if he fails to do so he can expect another ten year sentence, this time no licence after five years. He is a conman who simply did not care about the costs in human terms for the profits he made.”

A group of Iraqis had waited outside the Old Bailey for the sentence. One of them, Nidhal Ailshbib, said "This man was responsible for exploiting a terrible situation for money, what a terrible thing to do. It is not just that he made money from deaths, he also put millions into the corruption which is so bably affecting our country to this day."

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