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Fake bomb detectors conman ordered to pay back £8m

Published 15/06/2016

James McCormick was jailed after being convicted of selling fake bomb detectors.
James McCormick was jailed after being convicted of selling fake bomb detectors.

A conman who sold fake bomb detectors to war-torn countries has been ordered to pay back nearly £8 million of his ill gotten gains.

James McCormick, 60, of Langport, Somerset, lived a life of luxury by ripping off customers in Iraq, Niger and Bahrain with useless devices.

Following an Old Bailey trial in 2013, he was jailed for 10 years after being found guilty of three counts of fraud.

At a confiscation hearing, a court heard his total criminal gains were more than £21 million but he now had assets worth £7,944,834.70p, which was ordered to be paid.

They included £4 million from the sale of a house in The Circus in Bath; an £88,000 parking spot; a luxury villa in Limassol, Cyprus; a £345,000 Sunseeker motorcruiser as well as a family home in Somerset, which he jointly owned with his wife Paula.

McCormick had also bought his daughter a flat in Bath when she reached the age of 18 which had been rented out, the court heard.

As well as other properties, McCormick had millions of pounds stashed in bank accounts, bonds and pension funds and "hidden assets" totalling more than £1.8 million, the court heard.

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

The Republic of Iraq ministry of interior had claimed 97 million dollars but had failed to provide proof so was awarded just over £2.3 million.

McCormick was ordered to hand over the funds or face a further 10 years in jail.

The earlier trial heard how McCormick made millions from selling three models, based on a novelty £13 golf ball finder, to Iraq and other countries.

The prosecution said there was no scientific basis to the detectors and they were nothing more than a con.

Jailing him, Judge Hone had told the fraudster he had blood on his hands as a result of his ''callous confidence trick''.

He said: ''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.''

McCormick was one of a series of fraudsters to be convicted over the same scam.

Outside court, Detective Inspector 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. £150,000 returned to that country will be a great benefit to them."

McCormick sold his fake detectors for up to £40,000 each, even though the golf ball finders they were made from cost just 19.99 US dollars (£14). More than 6,000 of them were sold in Iraq alone, the trial heard.

Under the victims compensation order, Iraq was awarded £2.3 million; Republic of Georgia £26,000; Republic of Niger £159,000; Movenpick Hotel Group £8,500; and Unifil (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) £45,500.

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