Army 'wasted' B7.5m probing duds

Army 'wasted' B7.5m probing duds

Bomb detector faults a known fact: MP

A GT200 bomb detector. (File photo)
A GT200 bomb detector. (File photo)

A Move Forward Party (MFP) lawmaker on Friday claimed the army hired the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) for more than 7.5 million baht to examine GT200 bomb detectors that had already been proven to be fake.

Jirat Thongsuwan, an MP for Chachoengsao, made the claim during the deliberation of the 2023 budget bill in parliament on Thursday.

He said the army awarded the NSTDA a 7.5-million-baht contract in March to examine a total of 757 GT200 bomb detectors, or 10,000 baht each. The spending did not appear in the ministry's budget document, he said.

Previous inspections of the GT200 devices found that each one consisted of two stiff plastic pieces and did not contain any electronic components, he said.

"They were nothing more than dowsing rods. They were examined and it was proved they could not detect anything. When I asked for details of the contract from the army and the NSTDA, they told me that the information was classified," the MP said.

Mr Jirat said he wanted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who also serves as defence minister, to explain why the ministry spent so much on commissioning the NSTDA to examine the devices despite it being common knowledge they were fakes.

Jessada Denduangboripant, a biologist at Chulalongkorn University who was one of the first Thai experts to expose the GT200 scam, posted on Facebook that he was disappointed the NSTDA, which has many academics working for it, was involved in the contract.

"As it was widely known the devices were just pieces of plastic, why waste the time inspecting them one by one?" Mr Jessada posted.

On Friday, Defence Ministry spokesman Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich said the army had filed a lawsuit against a distributor and the Central Administrative Court ordered the company to pay 683 million baht in compensation.

The company appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court. The Office of the Attorney-General then recommended that each of the GT200 devices be examined. "Therefore, the examination was the essence of the case," Gen Kongcheep said.

At least 15 agencies were believed to have been duped into buying 1,398 bogus remote substance detectors worth more than 1.13 billion baht from UK-based Global Technical Ltd between 2005 and 2010.

The Thai army, the biggest buyer of the GT200s, mostly used the devices -- which were claimed to also be capable of detecting drugs and other substances -- in the restive far South.

In August 2013, British businessman Gary Bolton, owner of Global Technical, was sentenced by a UK court to seven years in jail on charges of fraud relating to the sale of the devices.

In June 2016, a UK court ordered compensation to be paid to affected countries from forfeited assets worth £7.9 million (340 million baht) belonging to James McCormick, who was serving a 10-year jail term for selling a similar bogus device.

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