James McCormick has today, Tuesday 23 April 2013, been found guilty of fraud. The millionaire businessman set up a business selling fake bomb detectors to Iraq, Georgia and various other countries, knowing them to not work. The businessman is said to have profited handsomely from the enterprise, with some reports suggesting that around £50m was made in sales.
BBC reports suggest that the devices were based on a novelty golf ball finder designed to detect explosives, drugs and even people. McCormick made a series of inaccurate claims about the devices, including asserting that they could track an object up to a kilometre under the ground. The BBC detail McCormick’s other assertions here. Each device is said to have sold for up to £27,000 despite being “completely ineffectual and lacking any grounding in science”, said the prosecution. Iraq alone spent over £26.2m on 6,000 such devices between 2008 and 2010.
Notwithstanding the amount of money needlessly wasted, the more worrying fact is that individuals placed reliance on them to protect against life-threatening explosives. One such individual was Haneen Alwan. She lost her unborn child and needed 59 operations having been injured in a bomb blast in 2009.
A Newsnight investigation revealed that senior Iraqi officials were aware that the devices did not work and even received bribes to ensure they were purchased. The BBC has confirmed that General Jihad al-Jabiri, the head of the Baghdad bomb squad, is currently serving a jail term for corruption, along with two other Iraqi officials.
So what next?
McCormick is to be sentenced on 2 May. Thereafter we envisage that the police will pursue McCormick’s wealth under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in order to prevent him benefiting financially from his crime. McCormick now faces loss of his several properties, including that previously belonging to Nicholas Cage.
Newsnight reported on this story at 10:30pm, BBC 2 on Tuesday 23 April 2013.