2021.09.20 14:51

Lithuanian customs sign contract with Chinese tech firm despite security concerns

Roma Pakėnienė, BNS2021.09.20 14:51

The Lithuanian Customs Department has signed a contract with the Warsaw branch of China's Nuctech on the installation of X-ray equipment at the Kena customs office on the border with Belarus.

The Lithuanian side signed the contract last Friday. Nuctech Warsaw, the winning bidder, is expected to do so in the next few days, Vitas Volungevičius, a spokesman for the Customs Department, told BNS on Monday.

The value of the contract will not be disclosed until it is signed, he said, adding that the procurement had been estimated at 4 million euros, but the department managed to secure a lower price.

The contract calls for the X-ray equipment to be purchased by December 4, but the deadline can be extended for a year.

According to Volungevičius, this will depend on when Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LTG) builds the necessary infrastructure. The department and the state railway company signed a contract for this back in 2019.

Lithuania's governmental commission vetting deals with national security implications cleared the deal with Nuctech Warsaw in early August.

Kęstutis Lančinskas, an adviser to the prime minister, then noted that Lithuanian customs officers were checking freight shipments manually at a time of an influx of irregular migrants from Belarus and an increase in smuggling across the border.

The deal was approved in light of the situation at the border, but “an extensive list of conditions and preconditions” regarding deadlines, software, Internet connections and many other things was attached to it, he said.

Earlier this year, Nuctech Warsaw was barred from Lithuanian airports' baggage scanner tender due to national security concerns.

Nuctech then dismissed the concerns, saying that its equipment was produced in Poland “under the strictest applicable EU and national performance and safety standards”.

Darius Žvironas, head of the Customs Department, has told BNS earlier that the department received two bids to supply X-ray equipment, but only Nuctech Warsaw's offer met the requirements.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė has said that the Kena crossing point on the border with Belarus needs to have an X-ray machine as soon as possible

The Wall Street Journal reported in June 2020 that US agencies had launched a campaign against Nuctech's operations in Europe.

Critics say that Nuctech's “extreme low-level pricing strategy” suggests that its motives are not commercial but rather “an interest to control strategic EU infrastructure and data-driven knowledge”, according to the article.

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