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in-focus

Move to seize assets of Thai agent for GT200


Auditor-general wants action over alleged collusion with foreign maker of bogus detector.

AUDITOR-GENERAL Pisit Leela-vachiropas has told the Anti-Corruption Operation Centre and the Office of Money Laundering to sue and seize the assets of the Thailand-based sales agent of the bogus GT200 bomb detector and device.
Pisit said the Office of the Auditor-General has probed the scandal for many years and found that local distributors had colluded with the overseas manufacturer by lying about the quality of the GT200 to persuade many state agencies to buy it. Tests proved the device was not as effective as claimed, he said.
“The cost of making the GT200 was not substantial but the device was sold for hundred times the cost,” he said. 
“This is a large-scale fraud to sell substandard products. We have to take legal action against the sales agents in Thailand and its overseas manufacturer.’’
The Royal Thai Army submitted information about its purchase of the bogus bomb detector to the Department of Special Investigation to seek compensation. A British court ruled last week to seize assets worth 7.9 million pounds (Bt375 million) from James McCormick.
McCormick began serving a |10-year jail term in 2013 for producing the GT200 and the Alpha 6 narcotics detectors, which he started selling to governments around the world.
National Council for Peace and Order deputy spokesman Colonel Sirichan Ngathong told reporters that the state agencies that bought the GT200 had submitted purchase details to the DSI. “It is up to the DSI to decide whether to claim damages,’’ she said.
Thirteen agencies bought the GT200 and Alpha 6 devices, including the Army, the Royal Thai Police, the Central Institute of Forensic Science and the Customs Department. They bought 1,358 devices for Bt1.13 billion, according to media reports.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday did not rule out seeking compensation from a previous government’s purchase of the bogus bomb detector.
In addition to Thailand, Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, Niger and Georgia were among McCormick’s customers, according to media reports.
Asked if there would be further investigation into any irregularities surrounding the purchase of the bomb detector, Prayut loudly said: “What more can you probe? They have stopped using the device long ago, probably throwing them into the bin. 
They used them for a while and when it was proven that they were not effective, they stopped using them.”
 
Awaiting advice from NACC 
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan defended the procurement of the devices as being transparent and in line with all regulations. “If there was corruption, they have to find out exactly where,’’ he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday that |the government was awaiting |the investigation results by |the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) over the bogus bomb detector.
“We have to see who the NACC finds guilty. If we are going to seek compensation, whom should we ask and on what charges? In this case, the state is the damaged party. We cannot take recourse to the British court ruling to seize assets [from concerned parties],” he |said.

Published : June 20, 2016

By : THE NATION