VILNIUS - Russian fittings supplied by Latvia might have been installed during the construction of the strategically important Gas Interconnection Poland–Lithuania (GIPL) launched in May, 2022, according to an investigation by Lithuania's 15min.lt news website and investigative journalism centers in Poland, Latvia and Romania.
Lithuanian prosecutors launched a pre-trial investigation almost a year ago, and the project's contracting authorities, Lithuania's state-owned natural gas transmission system operator Amber Grid and its shareholder Epso-G, are drawing up crisis management plans, 15min reports.
It says the project's main contractor Alvora signed a contract with the then Global Pipe Trade (now named ChelPipe International), a Swiss-registered company that is part of the Russian ChelPipe Group, which supports Russia's military infrastructure. When this fact emerged, Amber Grid ordered the purchase of fittings from European producers.
In 2021, Alvora's former partner in this project, Siauliu Dujotiekio Statyba, informed Amber Grid of possible falsifications in the fittings documents, alleging that Alvora could have installed ChelPipe fittings by "planting" them under forged certificates of Polish and Romanian manufacturers, which Alvora denies.
The suspicious fittings, a total of 158, are worth around 300,000 euros. They were purchased and installed by Alvora in 2020 and they were manufactured by Poland's Tasta Armatura of Poland and Romania's Sara SRL. Tasta Armatura's products for the pipeline were sold by Latvia's Conti Chemicals. And the latter's certificates for the Polish Tasta parts and the Romanian Sara products are raising questions.
Siauliu Dujotiekio Statyba claims to have gathered evidence that neither Tasta Armatura, nor Sara could produce some of the fittings used during the GIPL construction because they are not accredited to produce such parts.
Siauliu Dujotiekio Statyba claims that the fittings were in fact made by Eterno, a Russian metallurgical plant based in Chelyabinsk. Siauliu Dujotiekio Statyba has also provided certificates and product drawings from Eterno, which is part of the ChelPipe group, and they miraculously match the indicators of the "European" quality certificates.
Upon receipt of this information from Siauliu Dujotiekio Statyba on the discrepancies in Tasta Armatura certificates, Poland's technical watchdog (UDT) also launched an investigation and suspended several accreditations of the company in question.
Siauliu Dujotiekio Statyba believes the fittings of shady origin and quality should be replaced.
Amber Grid provided answers to 15min only last Friday and said that the Vilnius Regional Prosecutor's Office had launched a pre-trial investigation into some GIPL fittings, adding that it turned to prosecutors on the same day "as part of an internal investigation and evaluation of the information".
Amber Grid earlier assured at the time that its internal investigation, carried out in February-March 2022, found that the parts used in the construction of the pipeline were suitable and were in line with the design and legislation. It also added that companies from EU countries had confirmed the fact that they made the parts for the pipeline and that their certificates were genuine, which was confirmed by tests of the fitting's chemical composition.