NSTDA defends GT200 bomb detector probe

NSTDA defends GT200 bomb detector probe

The National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) is defending itself over allegations an examination of the army's fraudulent GT200 bomb detectors lacked transparency, saying it was conducted in line with international standards at a cheaper service price.

During debate on the 2023 budget bill in parliament on Thursday, Jirat Thongsuwan, Move Forward Party MP for Chachoengsao, said the army awarded the NSTDA a 7.5-million-baht contract in March to examine 757 GT200 bomb detectors.

However, the spending did not appear in the Defence Ministry's budget document, Mr Jirat said, questioning the move's transparency. Previous inspections of the GT200 devices found that each consisted of two stiff plastic pieces and did not contain any electronic components, he said.

At least 15 state agencies were believed to have been duped into buying bogus detectors worth more than 1.13 billion baht from United Kingdom-based Global Technical Ltd between 2005 and 2010.

Mr Jirat said he wants Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who also serves as Defence Minister, to explain why the army spent 7.5 million baht hiring the NSTDA to examine the devices despite common knowledge that they were fraudulent.

Responding to the saga yesterday, the NSTDA's electrical and electronic products testing centre said it was asked by the army's Ordnance Department to check the devices so the outcome of the checks could be used in a court case against a distributor.

The examination was done in line with international standards to provide information in court, the centre said, adding it charged less for the service than laboratories abroad.

On Friday, Defence Ministry spokesman Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich said the army has filed a lawsuit against a distributor over the purchase of the GT200 bomb detectors and the Central Administrative Court has ordered the company to pay 683 million baht in compensation.

The firm appealed to the Central Administrative Court, he said, and the Attorney-General's office then recommended that each device be examined.

The outcome of the examination will be used as evidence in the case, he said.

The army was the biggest buyer of the GT200s, which were claimed to also be capable of detecting drugs and other substances.

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 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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