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Conman sold golf ball finders as bomb detectors to Iraq

3 min

The conviction of a British businessman who sold fake bomb detection equipment based on a golf ball finder has reignited concerns over thousands of bogus bomb detectors still in use in Iraq today.


How many people died in Iraq after being tricked into a false sense of security by James McCormick’s fake bomb detectors? Two days after the British businessman was convicted of fraud in a London court, Iraqi officials are faced with the daunting task of tracking down more than 6,000 bogus "detectors" bought between 2008 and 2010.

The 57-year-old former policeman made huge sums of money by selling more than $40 million of useless devices to the Bagdad government while bombing attacks were claiming hundreds of lives throughout Iraq.

On one occasion, an insurgent drove a truck laden with explosives through 23 checkpoints in Baghdad where the ‘detectors’ were being used.

"The man who sold these useless devices has no conscience; he’s a morally bankrupt person. How could he sell them just for money and destroy other people’s lives", an Iraqi woman who suffered horrific burns in a bombing attack in 2009 told a BBC journalist.

BBC Newsnight program reported that three Iraqi officials have since been jailed for corruption for taking part in the fraud.

"Designed to make money"

Iraq was not the only nation to be duped by James McCormick. Military and police forces from Niger, Georgia, Egypt, Thailand, Libya, and other countries also bought devices that experts described as "completely ineffectual as a piece of detection equipment".

The devices, which were supposed to keep people safe from bombers, were actually based on a golf ball finder that could be purchased in the US for less than $20. James McCormick used glossy brochures, fake demonstrations, and bribes to tout his devices as suitable for use at checkpoints, military bases, and other sensitive installations.

In fact, experts found that the aerial supposed to detect suspicious substances was unconnected and that there were no actual sensors inside the "detector". A former business partner of James McCormick cited by the BBC said that the millionaire conman was fully aware that the detectors didn’t work.

He recalled confronting him after becoming suspicious about the bomb detectors’ effectiveness. James McCormick bluntly replied:

"It does exactly what it’s designed to do: it makes money"

James McCormick will be sentenced on May 2 after being found guilty of three counts of fraud at London’s Central Criminal Court.

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