Three British government departments and agencies promoted the international sale of fake bomb detectors which are thought to have cost lives, despite a Whitehall-wide warning they were useless.
In the aftermath of Bolton’s sentencing, it can be revealed that the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the government’s trade arm, UKTI, gave promotional, diplomatic and financial backing to Bolton over several years even though a Home Office expert in bomb detection equipment found his device’s ability to detect explosives was no better than random. In Thailand, where hundreds of the bogus devices were sold under the brand GT200 for use at police and army checkpoints, human rights campaigners have reported they failed to detect bombs that then killed four people. Hundreds more have been wrongly imprisoned after the fake equipment indicated they had handled explosives.
On Tuesday night, ministers were under pressure to mount an urgent investigation into Whitehall’s role in the trade, which one MP labelled “a national embarrassment”. The devices cost Bolton as little as £1.82 to make but were sold for as much as £15,000 each, resulting in a trade worth up to £3m a year. Thomas Docherty, a Labour member of the House of Commons defence select committee, has written to the business secretary, Vince Cable, defence secretary, Philip Hammond, and foreign secretary, William Hague, saying that “there are serious questions to be answered by a number of government departments and agencies about their role in this sorry scandal”.
Warnings about the useless devices were ignored. Taxpayer money was spent to make the deals for them. Kickbacks are asserted to have occurred. This is turning into an internal scandal. As it should be. The officials had a responsibility to make sure such devices actually worked (these CLEARLY could not and did not) before advising their use.
For more on the saga of the fake bomb detectors, go here.