Dienstag, 26. Januar 2010
he boss of a British company that has sold million of dollars worth of “bomb detectors” to Iraq’s security forces has been arrested on suspicion of fraud.
Jim McCormick, 53, the managing director of ATSC which is based in a former dairy in Sparkford, Somerset, has been questioned by detectives from Avon and Somerset Police after a complaint that he misrepresented the devices.
In November, Mr McCormick, a former Merseyside police officer, told The Times that his devices, which consist of little more than a telescopic antenna on a molded plastic handle, are able to detect explosives in the same way as a dowsing rod finds water.
Thousands of the devices are in use at military and police check points across Baghdad where they are used to search vehicles and pedestrians for explosives. In recent months hundreds of people have died after car bombers were able to penetrate the security cordon supposed to protect the centre of the Iraqi capital.
Colin Port, the Somerset and Avon Police Chief Constable, personally ordered the investigation. A force spokesman said in a statement: “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. That man has been released on bail pending further inquiries.
“The force became aware of the existence of a piece of equipment around which there were many concerns, and in the interests of public safety, launched its investigation.
“It was reported to the Chief Constable Colin Port, through his role as the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on international development. He is chair of the International Police Assistance Board.
“Given the obvious sensitivities around this matter, the fact that an arrest has been made, and in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, we cannot discuss it any further at this time.” The Iraqi Government has spent a total of $85 million (£52.7 million) buying 1,500 of the bomb detectors from ATSC.
Mr McCormick told The Times that his company sold the device known as the ADE-651 for $8,000 each, a total of £12 million. The balance went on training and on middlemen. He admitted that despite his claim to have invented the detector, the precise principle on which it works was still unexplained.
The American magician and sceptic James Randi has condemned the bomb detectors as a “blatant fraud” and challenged Mr McCormick to prove that the ADE-651 really can find explosives, with the offer of $1 million if he succeeds. The challenge has not been taken up. Senior US military sources have also expressed doubts that it could ever work.
The Times tested the flimsy device which has no electronic components and no working parts and was unable to detect a paper bag containing fireworks from a few feet away. ATSC’s sales literature claims the device can detect minute quantities of explosives at up to one kilometre, or three kilometres from the air.
Mr McCormick told The Times that his device was being criticised because of its crude appearance.
He added: “We have been dealing with doubters for ten years. One of the problems we have is that the machine does look a little primitive. We are working on a new model that has flashing lights.”
A police source said: “We are satisfied the bomb detectors don’t work.”