National Security Bureau (NSB) officials used five trucks dispatched by the Presidential Office in a bid to smuggle 9,800 cartons of cigarettes into the nation on Monday, New Power Party (NPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) said yesterday.
Huang on Monday alleged that NSB official Wu Tsung-hsien (吳宗憲) ordered 9,200 cartons of cigarettes costing more than US$200,000 through China Airlines’ (CAL) online duty-free store before accompanying President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on a state visit to the Caribbean.
The Customs Administration confirmed that on Monday, the day Tsai returned to Taiwan from her trip, it intercepted five trucks loaded with 9,800 cartons of cigarettes which were following Tai’s motorcade from the airport.
Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times
Huang said when he asked the Presidential Office who sent the trucks, the office refused to provide any information, saying it could not reveal any details while a judicial investigation is ongoing.
“This is not the first time a branch of the executive has refused to answer questions from the legislative body using that excuse and I am sure it will not be the last,” Huang said.
Presidential Office spokesman Ting Yun-kung (丁允恭) later yesterday confirmed that the office was responsible for dispatching vehicles to pick up Tsai, other officials and NSB agents.
Since the case is under investigation, information relating to who approved the trucks cannot be made public, he added.
The officials involved in the case are mainly NSB employees based at the Presidential Office, Huang said.
NSB officials can be assigned to posts in the Presidential Office and receive their salaries from the Presidential Office’s budget, but they still follow instructions from the NSB, he said.
To find out if bureau employees have previously smuggled goods, investigators should immediately seize CAL’s order records, he said.
“It is ridiculous that even though the president ordered a thorough investigation, and everyone knows that CAL has the key evidence, investigators still have not done anything to preserve the evidence,” Huang said.
While Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) has vowed to thoroughly investigate the matter, “the public need to see action, not slogans,” Huang said.
The ministry should form a task force to investigate CAL and require the company to provide all related administrative records, he said.
The Customs Administration should impose a fine of between NT$3,000 and NT$60,000 (US$96.51 and US$1,930.25) on CAL subsidiary China Pacific Catering Services Ltd (華膳空廚) — which allegedly hid the cigarettes before they were loaded onto the trucks — for breaching warehouse management regulations, Huang said.
Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) yesterday visited CAL headquarters on behalf of the airline’s largest shareholder, the China Aviation Development Foundation, to monitor the progress of the company’s investigation into the incident.
“We hope that the airline will quickly and thoroughly investigate the incident, and disclose the results to the public,” Wang said.
The foundation holds a 34.45 percent stake in the airline.
Wang was reportedly sent by Lin because the minister was “extremely displeased” that the airline as of yesterday had not yet submitted a report about its investigation.
In related news, Veterans Affairs Council Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) has been named NSB director-general after his predecessor, Peng Sheng-chu (彭勝竹), resigned on Monday over the scandal.
Chiu, 66, previously served as deputy defense minister, among other posts.
He retired from the military in April 2017 and became veteran affairs minister in February last year.
Additional reporting by Shelley Shan and CNA
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