DISGRACED Somerset businessman James McCormick has had assets of more than £7.9 million confiscated from him at a hearing at the Old Bailey in London today, (Wednesday, June 15).
McCormick, 60, was jailed in May 2013 following a complex fraud investigation led by Avon and Somerset Police, which ran for more than three years after being convicted of selling weapon and explosive detectors, which did not work.
It is thought to be the highest confiscation order imposed in the South West under the Proceeds of Crime Act and follows a complex and far-reaching three year investigation by asset confiscation enforcement specialists from Zephyr, the region's organised crime unit.
At the confiscation hearing today it was identified that McCormick benefitted to the tune of £21.3 million from his fraud.
An additional £1.83 million has been listed as hidden assets, which investigators have been unable to find due to complex laundering that McCormick undertook using ‘shell’ companies registered abroad.
Various items including properties in the UK and abroad and a luxury yacht, which were seized as part of the police investigation were restrained by the court and will be sold.
A default penalty means that should he fail to pay the £7.9 million within three months then he will face an additional 10 years in prison and will still have to settle the order.
And the condition of the order means that should he ever come into funds in the future, then these could be seized by the court as part of the order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The court has awarded compensation to the victims of the fraud who purchased the devices - Iraq £2.3 million; Republic of Georgia £26,000; Republic of Niger £159,000; Movenpick Hotel Group £8,500; and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon £45,500.
At the trial in 2013 Judge Hone QC in sentencing McCormick, said he was a callous confidence trickster, who was likely to have caused death and injury.
The six-week trial at the Old Bailey heard that McCormick, from Langport, had committed a major fraud, duping people all over the world into buying his explosive and drugs detector devices, which were useless and did not work.
He was convicted of all three fraud charges and jailed for 10 years.
He was charged with three counts of making an article for use in the course of fraud, contrary to The Fraud Act 2006, between January 2007 and July 2012 and knowing that it was designed or adapted for use in the course of, or in connection with, fraud or intending to be used to commit, or to assist in the commission of, fraud.
It referred to three types of devices, which McCormick was selling - the ADE 101, ADE 650 and ADE 651.
He operated the weapon-detecting business from a converted dairy in Sparkford, Somerset, sending devices all over the world.
The court was told during the trial the detecting devices he produced were not based on a comprehensive, detailed research and development programme but on a novelty American golf ball finder device, which sold for $19.99.
From the golf ball finder McCormick developed the ADE (Advanced Detection Equipment), producing three models – the 101, 650 and 651. The devices were sold for up to £40,000 each.
But the court was told, that apart from a different sticky label, the golf ball finder and weapon detecting devices were indistinguishable.
McCormick claimed his device could be adapted to detect almost anything - such as drugs, explosives and other substances - depending on which programme card was inserted into the machine.
The Somerset businessman conceded that although there were no electronics in the device, it didn't mean that it wasn't working. He admitted he personally was unable to work the device because he had not had sufficient training.
McCormick confirmed during the trial more than 6,000 devices had been sold to Iraq alone, at a cost of more than $40 million.
Prosecution barrister Richard Whittam QC said of the devices produced by McCormick: "He made them knowing that they were going to be sold as something that it was claimed was simply fantastic, fantastic at detecting a wide-range of substances from great distances.
"When you learn of the claims made about what these devices were capable of, you may think those claims are incredible."
"The Avon and Somerset Police-led investigation involved close co-operation with expert UK scientists, foreign governments, security personnel and private individuals.
The force worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and prosecuting counsel to bring about the successful conviction."
The investigation involved more than 1,150 exhibits being produced, 1,460 documents, in excess of 300 statements and the enquiry involved members of the investigation team visiting Georgia, Bahrain, the Lebanon, France and Belgium, while the Inspector General of Iraq visited the UK during the trial, to assist with the investigation.
Overseas enquiries were also made in Canada, Japan, Romania, Kenya and America.
Detective Inspector Edward Heath at the time, said: "McCormick showed a complete disregard for the safety of those who used and relied upon the device for their own security and protection.
"We heard evidence these devices were used at numerous checkpoints within Iraq between 2008 and 2010, a period when thousands of the devices had been purchased.
"It is clear both civilians and armed forces personnel were put at significant risk by relying upon the equipment.”
Following today’s confiscation hearing DI Heath said: “Following a highly complex asset confiscation investigation, today’s decision in court sends out a powerful message that crime does not pay and we will pursue those whose criminality brings them wealth”
Following the jailing of McCormick, intense behind the scenes activity has been taking place. This has involved officers from Avon and Somerset’s serious crime group working with detectives from Zephyr – the South West’s regional organised crime unit - to investigate the Somerset fraudster under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
DI Heath added: “We are pleased to have obtained what has been one of – if not the largest confiscation orders – in the south west of England. This just shows that criminals will be pursued and their assets from illegal activity seized.”