VILNIUS – A Vilnius court has temporarily suspended the tender process for a contract to supply luggage scanning equipment to Lithuanian airports, following the request from the Polish unit of China's Nuctech.
On March 25, Vilnius Regional Court granted the request from Nuctech Warsaw Company Limited and Inta to halt the procedure pending its decision on their lawsuit, Lina Nemeikaite, the court's spokeswoman, told BNS.
Tadas Vasiliauskas, spokesman for Lietuvos Oro Uostai (Lithuanian Airports, LOU), the operator of Lithuania's three international airports, says the court's interim measure restrains the state-owned company from formally terminating the tender process.
"We'll decide on the further course of the tender after the court's ruling in the dispute," he told BNS.
According to Vidas Vilkas, a lawyer representing Nuctech and Inta, his clients are asking the court to annul LOU's decision not sign a contract with them.
Vilnius Regional Administrative Court has also accepted another suit by Nuctech and Inta in which they challenge the Lithuanian government's decision that the planned deal with the companies would pose a threat to national security, the lawyer said in a press release.
Vilkas said that the government's decision to prohibit the airport operator from signing the deal with Nuctech and Inta means that the order will now go to a US competitor whose bid price was much higher.
In mid-February, the government decided that the planned deal with Nuctech did not meet national security interests. The decision followed a conclusion by a governmental commission vetting deals by strategic enterprises.
The panel reviewed the proposed deal at the request of LOU and Laurynas Kasciunas, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense. The commission's conclusion was not made public.
Kasciunas then said that Nuctech's screening equipment can collect data on passengers and luggage, which could be made available to China's intelligence and security services under a Chinese law.
Nuctech then dismissed the allegations, saying the equipment it offers to Lithuania is produced near the Polish capital of Warsaw "under the strictest applicable EU and national performance and safety standards".
The Wall Street Journal reported last June that US agencies had launched a campaign against Nuctech's operations in Europe.
"A campaign led by the National Security Council and a handful of US agencies is trying to rally European governments to uproot Nuctech Co., a well-connected Chinese state-controlled company whose screening systems for cargo, luggage and passengers are becoming a fixture at ports, border crossings and airports across Europe," the newspaper wrote.
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.