Fraud alleged over devices used in Iraq to detect bombs
BAGHDAD - The owner of a British company that supplies possibly worthless bomb detectors to Iraq has been arrested on fraud charges and export of the devices has been banned, British government officials confirmed yesterday.
Iraqi officials reacted angrily to the news, noting a series of horrific bombings in the past six months despite widespread use of the bomb detectors at hundreds of checkpoints in Baghdad.
“This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device,’’ said Ammar Tuma, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s Security and Defense Committee.
But the Ministry of the Interior has not withdrawn the device from duty and police officers continue to use them.
Iraqi officials said they would begin an investigation into why their government paid $85 million to the British company, ATSC Ltd., for about 800 of the bomb detectors, called ADE 651s.
The New York Times first reported official doubts about the device in November, citing American military officials and technical experts who said the ADE 651 was useless, despite widespread reliance on it in Iraq.
The ADE 651 is a hand-held wand with no batteries or internal electronic components, ostensibly powered by the static electricity of the user, who needs to walk in place to charge it. The only moving part is what looks like a radio antenna on a swivel, which swings to point toward the presence of weapons or explosives.
“We are conducting a criminal investigation and as part of that a 53-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of fraud by misrepresentation,’’ a police spokesman in England said. Police have not identified the suspect. His name was widely reported in the British press as Jim McCormick, managing director of ATSC Ltd.