Belgium investigating Alibaba for possible espionage at Liege airport

Belgium investigating Alibaba for possible espionage at Liege airport

Belgian authorities are investigating whether the presence of an Alibaba subsidiary at the Liège cargo airport is a national security threatt.

Alibaba placed its central logistics centre in Liège a few years ago, something that was supposed to create 900 new jobs, as Belgian authorities stated at the time. According to professor at the Free University of Brussels Johan Holslag, the decision to provide permits to Alibaba was accompanied by a series of errors. For example, customs officials were overwhelmed by the large quantities of packages and they were structurally marked incorrectly.


Now, concerns have been raised about Alibaba’s potential espionage activities. The problems raised by intelligence agency VSSE are similar to those surrounding Huawei a few years ago. For example, Chinese companies are required to pass information on to that country’s intelligence services, so European information unwittingly ends up in Beijing. This law caused controversy around Huawei’s infrastructure plans in Europe, particularly regarding the construction of 5G cell towers.

The VSSE states that it is detecting whether spying and intervention attempts may have taken place at the Liege logistics hub. This is not limited to Alibaba, although the company is explicitly mentioned.

The Liège center is not directly controlled by Alibaba: in 2018, it agreed with the Belgian government to run the site through its logistics subsidiary Cainiao, which would soon spin off from Alibaba itself through an IPO in Hong Kong.

Also read: Alibaba Cloud expands in Europe via Equinix data centres