Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Call For Info On Corrupt U.S. Bomb-Detector Deal

Call For Info On Corrupt U.S. Bomb-Detector Deal


by Richard S. Ehrlich


A CTX 9000 DSi machine

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thailand wants Washington to confirm no Thai government officials received bribes in an attempt to sell American bomb-detectors to Bangkok's international airport, after the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, ruled the multi-million dollar deal violated "foreign corrupt practices".

California-based General Electric and the Thai government hope to renegotiate the stalled contract, and silence scandalous allegations voiced by Thai officials, opposition politicians, Bangkok's media and others who have been probing the murky deal during the past three weeks.

"We want a formal letter of confirmation [from the U.S. Justice Department] on whether or not there has been an act of corruption," government spokesman Chalermdej Jombunud said in remarks published on Wednesday (May 18).

"It is our duty to get information from the original source, which is the U.S. Justice Department," said Deputy Prime Minister Vishanu Kruangam.

"Basically, we just want to ask them, 'Now that you have investigated, please tell us what you discovered'," Mr. Vishanu said.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra earlier expressed confidence no Thai government official received bribes in the original deal.

The American Embassy in Bangkok, meanwhile, suggested a possible renegotiation, General Electric said.

"The U.S. Embassy counseled us to continue with a direct sale of the CTX 9000 machines to the NBIA [New Bangkok International Airport], or another Thai government entity," wrote Louis Porter, a General Electric C.E.O., in a lengthy, defensive letter dated May 12 which was addressed to Prime Minister Thaksin and splashed in full in the Nation newspaper on Wednesday (May 18).

Critics, however, suspect a new deal would include a massive cover-up, and are demanding Washington name names.

Thailand, China and the Philippines were identified by the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, in "corrupt" deals with InVision Technologies, incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Newark, California.

In December, General Electric Co. paid 900 million U.S. dollars to acquire InVision, and the corporation is now called GE InVision, Inc.

On Dec. 6, the U.S. Justice Department's Fraud Section announced InVision's deals in Thailand, China and the Philippines included "criminal liability associated with potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)" during 2003 and 2004, and fined InVision 800,000 U.S. dollars.

In February, the Securities and Exchange Commission fined InVision an additional 1.1 million U.S. dollars "for violations" of the FCPA.

In the Thai deal, InVision tried to sell 26 high-tech X-ray scanners capable of finding explosives in luggage on conveyor belts, for Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi International Airport which is currently under construction.

The CTX 9000 DSi machine's tunnel-shaped chamber can also pinpoint narcotics and currency, the company said.

"Construction of the airport is overseen by a corporation controlled by the government of Thailand. InVision retained a distributor in Thailand to lobby the airport corporation, and the Thai government, on InVision's behalf," the S.E.C. said on Feb. 14 in an Accounting and Auditing Enforcement document.

"The [Thai] distributor indicated that it had offered to make gifts, or payments, to officials with influence over the airport corporation" in Bangkok.

"Despite this awareness, InVision authorized the distributor to continue to pursue the transaction," the S.E.C. said.

The sleazy sale was almost successful.

"In or about April 2004, the airport corporation, through its general contractor, agreed to purchase 26 of InVision's explosive detection machines from the InVision distributor, in a sale InVision valued at approximately 35.8 million dollars," the S.E.C. said.

The deal was stopped, but "by proceeding with the transactions, InVision made, or authorized the making of, illegal payments to foreign officials," the S.E.C. said.

"I guarantee that there is no bribery involved," Worapoj Yasadatt, head of Bangkok-based Patriot Business Consultants Co. Ltd., told reporters. Patriot is a Thai distributor at the heart of the deal.

But the S.E.C. said, "InVision improperly accounted for certain payments to its agents and distributors in its books and records, in violation of the FCPA."

That indicates InVision illegally sent cash to Thailand, but gives no clue as to who ultimately pocketed the money -- and whether or not it was passed to any Thai government officials.

"The investigations by the [U.S. Justice] Department and the S.E.C. revealed that InVision, through the conduct of certain employees, was aware of a high probability that its agents or distributors in the Kingdom of Thailand, the People's Republic of China and the Philippines had paid, or offered to pay, money to foreign officials or political parties in connection with transactions, or proposed transactions, for the sale by InVision of its airport security screening machines," the U.S. Justice Department announced on Dec. 6.

In China and the Philippines, the evidence was more damning.

InVision illegally paid 95,000 U.S. dollars to its Chinese distributor, knowing the money would most likely "pay for foreign travel and other benefits for airport officials," to clinch a deal to sell two bomb-detection machines to a government-owned airport in Guangzhou, China, the S.E.C. said.

"InVision improperly recorded the [Chinese] payment in its books as a cost of goods sold," and made a profit of about 589,000 U.S. dollars from the two machines.

In the Philippines, InVision also sold two bomb-detection machines to an airport.

InVision illegally paid about 108,000 U.S. dollars in "a commission," despite the likely possibility "that the sales agent intended to use part of the commission to make gifts, or pay cash, to influence Filipino government officials to purchase [more] InVision products," the S.E.C. said.

*************

Richard S. Ehrlich, a freelance journalist who has reported news from Asia for the past 26 years, is co-author of the non-fiction book, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" -- Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is www.geocities.com/glossograph/


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news