LONDON (Reuters) - A British businessman was convicted of fraud on Tuesday after making millions of dollars selling fake bomb-detection equipment based on a golf-ball finder to countries around the world, endangering rather than protecting lives there.
James McCormick, 56, manufactured and sold the hand-held “ADE 651” devices to countries at serious risk from bombings such as Iraq, claiming they could detect explosives, drugs and other substances.
But the detectors had no working components, lacked any basis in science and did not work in accordance with the known laws of physics, London’s Old Bailey court heard.
“James McCormick is a conman,” said Detective Superintendent Nigel Rock of Avon and Somerset Police outside court. “That device has been used and is still being used on checkpoints. People using that device believe it works. It does not.”
Britain’s Press Association quoted prosecutors as saying the detectors were based on a novelty machine for finding golf balls which could be bought in the United States for under $20.
Marketing material claimed items could be detected up to 0.6 miles (1 km) underground, at up to 3 miles from the air and 100 feet (33 metres) under water.
During his trial, McCormick said he had sold his detectors to police in Kenya, the prison service in Hong Kong, the army in Egypt and border control in Thailand. They were also sold in Niger and Georgia and between 2008 and 2010, Iraq bought 6,000 devices at a cost in excess of $40 million.
“A large proportion of these were countries where there was and still remains a real risk of terrorism and criminality,” Rock said.
“The devices were used at numerous checkpoints within Iraq during this period. It is clear that both civilians and armed forces personnel were put at significant risk in relying upon this equipment.”
McCormick said he had had no negative reports from customers. He will be sentenced next month.
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Mark Heinrich