An investigation into the sale of fake bomb detectors whose failure to detect explosive devices is believed to have led to hundreds of deaths in Iraq has expanded to a number of firms in the UK.
The Independent revealed the arrest of security firm director Jim McCormick by Avon and Somerset police in January after his company was said to have made millions of pounds in sales from the detectors.
The British Government has announced a ban on the export of the device known as the ADE651 which operates on a "dousing" principle and has no electronic components to Iraq and Afghanistan.
City of London Police announced today that offices and homes linked to three businesses selling the equipment were raided by officers who seized hundreds of devices, components and cash.
A number of people, said the police, will soon be interviewed under caution on suspicion of fraud. The companies involved are Global Technical, based near Ashford, Kent: Grosvenor Scientific, of Ottery St Mary, Devon; and Scandec, of Nottingham.
A City of London Police spokesman said official tests have failed to find any scientific explanation for how the equipment could operate. Researchers have found the detectors were even less successful than random searches.
Police are also investigating whether the sale of these items to war zones is linked to bribes and other kickbacks by middlemen.
Detective Superintendent Colin Cowan, of City of London Police, said police still wanted more information on sales of the product.
He said: "We are concerned that these items present a real physical threat to anyone who may rely on such a device for protection.It is for this reason that we are seeking to raise awareness of this threat and obtain assistance from the public."
Iraqi families who have suffered in the blasts tonight condemned their own government as well as the British authorities for allowing the extraordinary security failure. Among the attacks that the detectors, it is claimed, had failed to prevent were suicide bombings in October last year which killed 155 people and blasts two months later which resulted in 120 more deaths.
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, also ordered an inquiry into the purchase of 1,500 of the ADE 651 detectors by his officials who paid £45,000 apiece for the equipment when they were on sale elsewhere for about £15,000 each.
Mr McCormick, who served with Merseyside police before becoming managing director of the company ATSC, said that his "highly successful" ADE series was based on a similar principle to dowsing – the belief that certain types of woods can detect water underground. He said before his arrest: "We have been dealing with doubters for 10 years. One of the problems we have is that the machine does look a little primitive. We are working on a new model that has flashing lights."