Legislators yesterday lambasted the Customs Administration for negligence after media reports said it had allowed four sets of machinery that might have contained drugs into the nation.
They called on the Ministry of Finance to locate the equipment that Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport customs officers had in July tagged after detecting anomalies during a customary X-ray screening.
The four sets of machinery were imported for personal use from Bangkok.
The customs officers, suspecting the anomalies were caused by heroin, marked the machinery for disassembly and further examination, Customs Administration Director Liao Chao-hsiang (廖超祥) said.
As the importer said that the equipment could only be disassembled with his tools, the machines were moved to the importer’s factory without an escort, he added.
When customs staff arrived at the factory the next day, the machinery was already gone, Liao said.
The New Taipei City Police Department has been notified of the missing equipment and will be assisting efforts to relocate the items, Liao said, adding that the Taipei City District Prosecutors’ Office has assigned a Narcotics Prevention Division team led by Huang Shih-yuan (黃士元) to the case.
Taipei Customs Office Director Yang Chung-wu (楊崇悟) said he would take full responsibility for the oversight, but added that a lack of sufficient staff influenced the decision.
The division chief in charge of examining the equipment has been reassigned to a logistics unit, Yang said, adding that investigations are ongoing.
The customs officials had failed in their duties by not escorting the machinery to the factory, Minister of Finance Sheu Yu-jer (許虞哲) said.
However, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said it was not enough to only reassign one division chief after a blunder that has exposed the nation.
Were it not for media reports, customs could have kept the finance ministry in the dark even longer, Lin said, adding that he suspects that the minister knew and had been lying to lawmakers.
The issue demonstrates “inherent problems with the entire customs system,” Lin said, adding that it was “very coincidental” that the machinery was stolen just one night after it was allowed to be moved to the factory without supervision.
Since it was a personal import, the machinery by law should have been disassembled on the spot, senior customs officials said, adding that they were mystified as to which law or regulation the officer cited to allow the machinery to leave the airport.
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