BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Thailand's prime minister on Tuesday halted the purchase of bomb-detecting baggage scanners for Bangkok's new international airport from a U.S. company under investigation for allegedly giving Thai officials kickbacks for the deal.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said he was aware of a U.S. government investigation into reports that officials in Thailand, China and the Philippines were bribed by the scanner manufacturer, California-based InVision Technologies Inc., prior to its acquisition by General Electric Co. last year _ but that Thai officials were not involved.
He said Tuesday that the bribery allegations have ''damaged Thailand's reputation.''
''Today, I ordered the Ministry of Transport: no deal with GE InVision until they come out and state clearly that they did not pay money to the Thai government,'' Thaksin said.
In February, InVision _ known as GE InVision Inc. since it joined General Electric in December _ agreed to pay a fine of more than US$1 million (euro770,000) to settle claims by the U.S. government's Security and Exchange Commission that its employees and agents made improper payments to government officials in Asian countries, including Thailand, in an effort to sell airport security devices in the region.
The company also reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department in December to pay US$800,000 (euro619,900) in penalties to avoid prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The construction of the new Suvarnabhumi Airport on Bangkok's outskirts has already faced numerous delays. The airport is scheduled to start operating in March 2006.
Thailand's airport authority last year had agreed through its general contractor to buy 26 of InVision's devices worth about US$35.8 million, but the transaction was deferred after InVision was notified of the possible legal violations, an SEC statement said.
InVision had not received any money in the transaction and had agreed to proceed only if the sale was made directly to the state airport authority or another Thai government agency, said the Feb. 14 statement posted on the SEC's Web site.