I’ve been closely following the Jim McCormick, fake bomb detector, story over the last three years now. With his court conviction yesterday, the reportage has mainly focussed on how McCormick fooled foreign buyers with his transparent lies. We’ve all been incredulous that such obvious fakes could be palmed off on ‘foreigners’ – it’s all bordered on the comedic, really.
But the story isn’t primarily about conning at all, surely? It’s about bribery. For despite the almost racist undertones implicit within the reports, ‘foreigners’ are no more likely to be conned by a sweaty, low-life, fat boy as the rest of us here in perfumed blighty.
The far more likely scenario is that McCormick simply bribed local officials in Iraq; then he used glowing endorsements from the same officials in the, then, ‘world explosion capital’ to sell additional units in Africa.
It’s interesting that BBC Newsnight last night reported that senior African army officers had complained that the kit didn’t work. Quite likely, and contrary to popular impressions, such people hadn’t been bribed and were simply speaking the obvious truth.
The Newsnight package was fine as far as it went, but focussed too strongly on fraud – the cop spoke about nothing else. This may be because the events took place before the UK Bribery Act of 2012, I’ve no idea, but that’s a legal nicety. The harsh reality is that the primary variable here was bribery, not fraud, and we should be directing more attention to purchasers at institutions such as the UN, and also perhaps also even to the UK Home Office (export licences) and Ministry of Defence (were serving officers/soldiers involved in testing or marketing the devices at any point? Probably not, and I truly hope not, too, because such folk would have known the nature of the kit).
Food for thought, beyond comedy about ‘daft’ foreigners.