A purchase of kitchen utensils by the Lithuanian Army two years ago may end up a subject of criminal investigation after public procurement watchdogs found the state paid eight times the market price to a company that has won over 50 public contracts.
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Lithuania's Armed Forces still does not use the overpriced kitchen utensils purchased from Nota Bene company two years ago, aiming to launch a criminal investigation into suspected fraud.

"They are still in a warehouse, as we hope to initiate a criminal investigation into the unlawful attempt to sell the commodities we had purchased," Defence Minister Juozas Olekas told journalists on Tuesday.

In his words, the Defence Ministry had launched an in-house investigation back in 2014, and it was conducted by the Centralized Internal Audit Service and the General Inspectorate.

After establishing signs of fraud in the acquisition, the Ministry of Defence turned to prosecutors with a request to conduct a probe, which was started but later dropped, said Olekas.

The minister said the Defence Ministry filed a claim against the decision to court.

Earlier on Tuesday, Lithuania's Public Procurement Service said the Armed Forces had bought various types of kitchen utensils at a price that was eight times above the market price from Nota Bene company.

The army signed a €173,800 deal with the company, purchasing a cutting board for €180, although an identical board then cost €28 in a store. The deal also included a bread knife worth €142, while one could buy it at a store for €13. A steak fork was purchased for €184, a colander for €70, a hone for €103, a meat chopping knife for €250.

All of the prices are about eight times the market prices of the time.

The utensils were purchased from Nota Bene company, the only firm that submitted an offer for the purchase. Since 2006, Nota Bene has won over 50 public contracts, worth nearly €30 million, with the Armed Forces, being among the top 10 suppliers of the army.

The public procurement watchdog also criticized the €1.342 million purchase of military shovels where the army rejected other offers and chose Nota Bene, which offered the highest price.

The agency is currently analysing a claim in connection to the Nota Bene victory of a procurement bid for supply of blankets. A preliminary contract has been signed with Nota Bene, which offered to provide the blankets for €126,800, while the other supplier's offer of €66,400 was rejected as falling short of technical requirements.

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