Britain has banned the export of a hand-held machine marketed as a bomb-detection device in Iraq and Afghanistan because of allegations that it does not work.

The UK's Press Association on Saturday reported that police had arrested Jim McCormick, the director of ATSC, the company that makes the device, on suspicion of fraud by misrepresentation.

The report said McCormick had been released on bail.

The police did not name the man arrested, but said that it launched an investigation after the force became "aware of the existence of a piece of equipment around which there were many concerns".

Security checkpoints

ATSC's product, the ADE651, is marketed as a bomb detector and has been reportedly bought in large numbers by the Iraqi military to use at security checkpoints.

The Iraqi government is understood to have spent about $85 million buying thousands of ADE651 bomb detectors for use at its 400 checkpoints.

While the UK has said it would discuss the issue with Iraqi authorities, the export ban is limited to Iraq and Afghanistan based on the danger it could cause to British troops operating there.

Britain's department for business, innovation and skills said in a statement that its "legal power to control these goods is based on the risk that they could cause harm to UK and other friendly forces".

Doubt cast

British authorities did acknowledge that independent weapons experts had cast doubt on the device.

"Tests have shown that the technology used in the ADE651 and similar devices is not suitable for bomb detection," the statement said.

"As soon as it was brought to the attention of the Export Control Organisation and Lord [Peter] Mandelson [the UK business secretary] we acted urgently to put in place export restrictions which will come into force next week."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies