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Arms Trade Blue Peter

27 Jan 2011 | 1 Comments

Freedom of Information requests made by Don’t Panic can reveal that UK Trade and Investment Defence & Security Organisation, which reports jointly to Mr Hague in the Foreign Office and Mr Cable at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, has been helping a British company called Global Technical to sell fake bomb detectors all around the world.

Global Technical’s device, the GT200, described by experts as "a piece of plastic with a car aerial sticking out of it", and a replica device made by British company ATSC were exposed by Newsnight earlier in the year as having not a single functioning part and on January 27th of this year the British government banned their export to Iraq and Afghanistan because they might endanger British or allied forces and issued a warning to governments around the world that they did not work. Subsequent to the Newsnight expose Jim McCormick has been arrested and the offices of Global Technical have been raided.

A bit late though as $85m worth of the devices had already been sold to Iraq for use at checkpoints and $20m to Thailand among other places. God knows how many people have died as a result of their failure to detect explosives.

It has always been a more or less open secret that these devices are phoney. The machines allegedly work on ‘molecular magnetic resonance’ and the wand points to the suspected substance, just like a water diviner. And while the devices were sold to Iraq at US$40,000 a piece the parts in these machines can’t cost much more than a fiver, once the moulds have been made.

In January 2000, Global Technical boss Gary Bolton tried to sell an early version of the GT200 called the Mole to British customs but it totally failed a demonstration. Then in 2002 the Mole was tested in a thorough trial at the Sandia National Laboratories in the United States, which found that it was incapable of detecting explosives and performed no better than random chance. In 1999, the FBI put out an alert warning people not to use the devices.

UKTI DSO (known back then as DESO) performed its own trial of the GT200 in 1999, which Global Technical then used as a stamp of approval to sell its phoney product (claiming to be ‘registered and supported’ by the British government). But the government has tried to distance themselves from this trial, with Quentin Davies, who was a defence minister at the time saying that this assessment wasn’t actually a formal trial at all and had been mislabelled such.

We sent a Freedom of Information request asking to see the EST assessment, but were refused under section 32 (2) of the Freedom of Information act – which relates to Commercial Interests. Their argument was that “release of the information would reveal details of the company’s product which could be used by a competitor to incorporate Global Technical’s ideas into their own products and prejudice the company’s current or future business opportunities.” God forbid!

However, what we were able to get our hands on from our FOI requests were the details of four separate demonstrations given to Global Technical products by a UKTI Export Support Team.

Here we can see that in July 2003 the services of an Army corporal were employed for 14 days to demonstrate the GT200 to Polish customs at a cost of £1526 + VAT. A figure heavily subsidised by the British taxpayer. Then in Sept 2003 we have a Sergeant demonstrating the Mole Detector System, which was proven to be phoney by Sandia labs in the US in 2002 at the DSEI Arms Fair in London’s Docklands. Interestingly it was not long after the Thai government started using them. How did the Thais fall for it you might ask? Well officers from City of London Police's Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit (OACU) are currently investigating whether Global Technical’s sales overseas are linked to bribes.

Subsequent to that we have a five day demo by a corporal at the Milipol arms fair in Paris in November 2003 at a cost of £405.24 and the use of a corporal for seven days for demos in Kuwait and Bahrain in January 2004 at a cost of £109 a day. All of this will have been heavily subsidised by the tax payer.

At the time of the Newsnight expose, Quentin Davies made a statement in which he said that: “Evaluations of equipment are carried out by EST personnel for internal company use only and current instruction to the EST emphasizes that they are not to be used by companies in any form of marketing.”

But Case Studies on UKTI DSO’s own website give testimony to the usefulness of EST teams in selling military products. William Crawford, the boss of one company called Concrete Canvas said: “The fact that the people presenting our product are wearing British Army uniforms adds a huge amount of credibility. It gives customers confidence that our product is being used successfully in the field. The Export Support Team is made up of members of the armed forces, so they have also been great at providing feedback on our product, as well as advice on how it should be presented, marketed and packaged.”


  • Guest: diohuni
    Wed 02 - Feb - 2011, 18:50
    Glad to see your involvement in the campaign and the recent Newsnight investigation. We are hopeful that we will now see action against the main protagonists. The fact tht senior MPs are now on the case means we should get to the bottom of the whole damn scandal. We wrote to MOD and the Defence Select Committee in late 2008/early 2009 and nothing happened, so it is about time!! Just to let you all know that Techowiz is the man who has been mainly responsible for keeping the campaign going. Looking forward to more news soon. All best, Dubious Dick
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