Thursday, November 14, 2019

GT200 distributor convicted again, for Bt7m fraud on forensic institute

Oct 10. 2018
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By THE NATION

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A COURT yesterday once again found Avia Satcom Ltd and its top executive, Suttiwat Wattanakij, guilty of fraud, this time for supplying the fake GT200 devices to the Central Institute of Forensic Science, falsely claiming that they could detect bombs and narcotics.

The Bt6.8-million deal was one of several GT200 sales involving several state agencies and distributors. The Armed Forces had insisted on the device’s efficacy even after tests overseas had proved them to be useless. 

The Don Muang Kwaeng Court had convicted the company and its executive for a similar deal with another state agency. Suttiwat was found guilty last month in a case involving the Royal Aide-de-Camp Department and sentenced to nine years in prison. 

The department had bought Bt9 million worth of GT200s and related supplies in 2010.

‘Substandard device’

Suttiwat and three other defendants in the latest case denied wrongdoing, but the judge found him guilty and handed him another nine years in jail while ordering the firm to pay a Bt18,000 fine. Two other defendants, both employees of Avia Satcom, however were acquitted.

The handheld British-manufactured gadgets, which were supposed to detect all sorts of contraband, from bombs to drugs, were sold to various security units notably the Army.

The controversy was thrust into the limelight years ago when the manufacturers were convicted of fraud in 2013 after the British government, which had considered purchasing the devices for its troops, scrutinised the instruments.

Initially, the forensic institute defended its procurement decision, saying the device was an effective scientific instrument that could be used for detecting bombs and narcotics. Sometimes, it was used to scan for explosive substances on the bodies of suspects. Earlier, the device, which contains nothing inside, was used against suspected insurgents in the deep South. 

The court said yesterday that the company had deceived the Central Institute of Forensic Science into believing that the device was widely used around the world. “But the GT200 is a substandard device which does not work [to detect anything], and they thus caused damage to the institute,” the court said in the verdict.

The company was ordered to return a sum of Bt6.8 million paid for the devices to the forensic institute.

On September 18, the same court had convicted the company and the same executive over a Bt682-million deal with the Army. Two executives of the company were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment and ordered to return the purchase amount to the Army. 

However, none of the officials responsible for making the decision to buy such fake devices have faced any prosecution. The national anti-graft committee has accepted complaints but investigation continues at a slow pace. A huge lot of GT200s were purchased in 2008-9 when many current government leaders were in power.

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