Fake bomb detectors remain popular
WITH radio-like antennae meant to swivel and point at vehicles carrying bombs, “magic wand” explosive detectors proliferated throughout conflict zones in the 2000s until they were exposed as a global scam.
But in an astonishing security threat, more than 15,000 of a new variant of the handheld device have been made in Pakistan to guard high-value facilities, such as airports and government installations, despite officials conceding they are useless.
Many creators of the original devices are serving long jail sentences for fraud, including British businessman James McCormick. His ADE-651 became a mainstay of security forces in Iraq, where US$85 million was spent on them, before they were officially banned last month.
“It’s just a deterrent – it’s good for police and security personnel to have something in their hands,” an interior ministry official said.
Pressed on whether Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents – who have been waging an insurgency that has that claimed more than 60,000 lives in Pakistan since 2004 – may by now be wise to the deception, he said, “Yes, they are savvy and they probably are aware by now.”
His comments were backed by two other senior members of government.
Silence over the matter may be linked to the enormous sums of money involved in the business, observers say, while many bureaucrats fear for their jobs if they speak out.
Pakistan initially imported foreign detector devices such as the ADE-651 and the German made Sniffex but in 2009 Pakistan’s Airport Security Force (ASF) took over making and selling the wands.
More than 15,000 units have been sold within the country at a cost of 70,000 rupees ($700), according to an official, amounting to a total revenue of more than $10 million. –
Pakistani private security guard uses an explosive detector to search a vehicle at a mall entrance in Islamabad.