Alleged Nuclear Misdeeds Hit Lithuanian Graft Rank -Watchdog

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AFP)--Alleged misdealings over a nuclear power plant project dented Lithuania's standing on a global corruption list, watchdog Transparency International said Tuesday, but the prime minister rejected the claim.

Rytis Juozapavcius, head of the organization's Lithuanian chapter, spotlighted the Lithuanian Electricity Organization, or LEO LT, which is piloting a four-nation plan to built a new nuclear power station in the Baltic state.

"It's a prime example of bad public management. There was no bidding process for private sector involvement. Maxima, the major retail group, was picked and that was that," Juozapavcius told AFP.
But Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas - who won office in 2006 pledging to battle the corruption that has long afflicted the ex-Soviet republic - hit back.

He claimed Transparency International's Lithuanian chapter had "always been hostile" to his government, according to the news agency BNS.

"I believe that it (LEO LT) is one of the most transparent projects. No one can prove its lack of transparency. This is mostly based on presumptions and stories spread by opponents of the project," he said.

Kirkilas noted the government had hired international bank HSBC Holdings PLC to monitor the project, and that its representatives had "said at one of the government's meetings that the project was transparent."

Kirkilas' office declined AFP's requests for comment.

LEO LT was formally created in May by merging the state-owned energy companies Lietuvos Energija and energy grid firm RST with private grid company VST, owned by NDX Energija.

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