One of the UK’s largest engineering companies has the innocuous name of Smiths Group. It is not an under-the-arches set-up. It has a market capitalisation of £2.8bn and sales of £2.3bn. One of its largest divisions makes x-ray scanners used at airports, ports and similar places where security is vital. Smiths have called foul on a Chinese company linked to the eldest son of the Chinese president Hu Jintao. This action has triggered an investigation by the EU into “illegal dumping” of such scanning equipment to the disadvantage of Smiths Group’s own products. It is alleged that sales are made at a price advantage by offering to the potential customer a “soft loan”.
The Chinese company is called NucTech and is owned by the Chinese government. NucTech signed a contract with HM Revenue & Customs in 2006 to supply its machines to British ports and it has also held talks with BAA. The European investigation coincides with one of alleged corruption in Namibia. NucTech has also be probed in the Philippines after winning an airport security contract before it had been put to public tender.