The Magic Wand Story (so far), Mike Groves

What is a Magic Wand? It is a variant on the above picture; a small, hand-held plastic box, (120x40mm) with an aerial and containing a small battery, a simple circuit operating randomly and a replaceable cassette picturing a target material. The price varies and is in the $35,000 to $50,000 region.


Picture courtesy of IMCSE member, a hotel perimeter in ME…guard with Magic Wand!


The box is “loaded” with a cassette that relates to the item being sought and used by security Guards by pointing the aerial at the suspect item/area  etc… at perimeter choke points etc.

When the FBI raided the premises of a Magic Wand seller in Washington, they found the person taking pictures of materials using a Polaroid camera then encapsulating the picture. Each little encapsulated item then had a price put on it, typically several thousand $.
Typically, a set of Magic Wand and a few encapsulated target materials was being sold for at least $35,000 a set. The manufacturing cost was in the region of $20….

IMCSE are the professional body for Munitions Clearance and Search Engineers, so when Magic Wands appeared in the late 1990s they were studied to see if they were anything but dubious Golf Ball detectors (!), dangerous toys and fraudulent systems for the un-professional. They were not. Action was taken to alert UK authorities.

The UK FCO banned their sale in UK and 4 UK persons were jailed for fraud in UK (10,7,5(2) years) and one in Iraq (25 years).

Why is IMCSE involved? IMCSE is protecting its Members’ professional standards and those of associated reputable companies selling search equipment (X-Ray, Explosive Detectors, Metal Detectors, Mail Screeners, etc..) and showing the security world that such items are fraudulent/dangerous, unprofessional and a danger to the public.

Highlights and achievements of the IMCSE campaign:

  • Mid 1990s: the Magic Wands started to appear and in parallel, sales started in the USA, Middle and Far East. There was even an attempt to sell to UK MoD and its units in Chatham, Hereford and NI.
  • UK Agencies then tested the items and found them fraudulent and potentially dangerous. The Straits Times in the Far East reported 4 Thai Police Killed whilst using Magic Wands. Reports of sales came into IMCSE showing sales being made to famous Hotel Chains in Europe and the Middle East at the height of Terrorist bombings and IMCSE tried to alert them. They were not interested (details withheld).
  • In the period 2000-2010 UK police, the Independent Newspaper, the BBC and the fledgling IMCSE researched a case against the Company selling Magic Wands in UK. This culminated in a BBC “Insight” programme, the FCO banning sales from UK and 4 UK persons charged and found guilty of fraud, jailed and subject to POCA (recovery of Proceeds of Crime).
  • 2010 to date IMCSE has continued to research the Magic Wand cult. Production and sales have been reported in Germany, Greece, Cyprus and China. Some items have been recently reported and photographed being used by hotels in Jordan…
  • The chief UK fraudster has just been returned to Court (April 2018) to be given nearly 3 more years in jail for failing to disclose where all the money went. The Judge at his trial said that the process would continue, with longer jail sentences until more money (all?) was recovered.

IMCSE has proposed What now?

  • An MSc by research for a student to do an academic study of the Magic Wand Case for wider dissemination, to protect both the public and professional standards. It is currently fund raising.
  • IMCSE is maintaining its research capability and its members are keeping a close watch on those countries who still sell Magic Wands, some in the EU and those that still use them.

IMCSE thanks its researchers and members for all their work assembling information for the Authorities to use.

The President,
May 2018