UK court confiscates £8m earned over fake bomb detectors selling

UK court confiscates £8m earned over fake bomb detectors sellingA judge at the Old Bailey has ordered the confiscation of £8m fraudulently earned by a British businessman who risked lives selling fake bomb detectors to war-torn Iraq.

Jim McCormick, who was jailed for fraud in May 2013, will have to pay £2.5m to the Iraqi government in compensation for selling what was little more than a repackaged novelty golf ball detector. McCormick earned more than £21m from the bogus trade worldwide.

The 60-year-old married father of two from Langport, Somerset, is serving 10 years in jail following a scam that included the sale of £55m-worth of devices based on a novelty golf ball finder to Iraq, Niger, Syria, Mexico and other countries including Lebanon where a United Nations agency was a client.

McCormick appeared by video link from Dartmoor prison and Judge Richard Hone QC told him he had lived a “criminal lifestyle”. He said McCormick had realisable assets of £7.9m that he must hand over within three months or face another 10 years in jail.

The court heard he had sold his Bath home for £4m and he must also pay 50% of the proceeds from the sale of a property he owns with his wife Paula in Somerset, estimated to be worth about £162,000. Other assets included a fleet of vehicles and a £345,000 Sunseeker Portofino cruiser he named Aesthete. He also bought a £200,000 holiday home in Florida and a £320,000 villa in Cyprus. McCormick will be forced to sell a £320,000 flat in Bath he gave to his daughter on her 18th birthday.

McCormick’s devices were used at checkpoints in Baghdad through which car bombs and suicide bombers passed, killing hundreds of civilians.

At sentencing, the judge called McCormick’s trade “a callous confidence trick” that “in all probability materially contributed to causing death and injury to innocent individuals”.
UK court confiscates £8m earned over fake bomb detectors selling

The handheld devices were useless. Their antennae, which purported to detect explosives, and in other cases narcotics, were not connected to anything, they had no power source and one of the devices was simply the golf ball finder with a different sticker on it. Yet McCormick claimed they could detect explosives at long range, deep underground, through lead-lined rooms and multiple buildings. The devices were marketed at international trade fairs that were backed by UK government departments. It was also alleged that McCormick paid millions of pounds in bribes to senior Iraqis to secure the deals.
UK court confiscates £8m earned over fake bomb detectors selling

Judge Hone also ordered compensation be paid to McCormick’s former clients in Bahrain and the United Nations forces in Lebanon, Niger, Iraq and Georgia.

Outside court, Det Insp Ed Heath, of Avon and Somerset police, said: “I’m pleased with the judgment today. Our asset confiscation and enforcement team have worked tirelessly to ensure McCormick has not been able to benefit financially from his massive fraud. It just shows that we will go after criminals and their money to ensure they do not live a luxury lifestyle. Some of the countries, particularly the Republic of Niger, are very poor countries and were duped into buying these devices .”

In 2010, Pakistan’s airport security force continued to use McCormick’s ADE-651 fake bomb detector. In 2013, after McCormick’s conviction, it was reported that security guards in Lebanon were still using similar detectors.

The fraudster sold about 6,000 detectors to Iraq for as much as £10,000 each while the production cost for the device was as low as £15. He bought a mansion in Bath previously owned by the Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage, a holiday home in Cyprus and a Sunseeker yacht as part of assets worth £7m identified by police.

The handheld devices came equipped with an antenna that McCormick claimed pointed to explosives or narcotics depending on how it was “programmed”. A card reader device could be loaded with a laminated card – orange to look for explosives, blue for narcotics. Expert witnesses described the kit as “completely ineffectual” and an “affront” to science.

Source: The Guardian
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