Sat, Mar 18, 2006 - Page 3 News List

CKS cigarette seizure leaves lawmaker smokin' mad

ABOVE THE LAW?A lawmaker stands accused of wreaking vengeance on a customs official who had refused to let him bring a large number of cigarettes into the country

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A pan-green legislator was under fire yesterday after he used his position to engineer revenge on a low-ranking Customs official who wouldn't let the lawmaker bring more than the maximum allowable number of cigarettes into Taiwan.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Yu Shyi-kun yesterday called for his party's caucus to discipline Legislator Tu Wen-ching (杜文卿) after he used a legislative committee meeting to publicly humiliate the official who had offended him by adhering to the law.

During Thursday's Finance Committee meeting, Lin Chiu-tung (林秋東), a low-ranking customs officer, was required to attend at the request of a committee co-chair, DPP Legislator Yu Cheng-tao (余政道).

Yu asked for Lin to attend on the suggestion of Tu, who said he wanted to clarify a news report that said he had shouted filthy words at the Customs officer on Dec. 19 at the Customs desk in CKS airport, after Lin had seized 20 boxes of cigarettes -- said to be worth a mere NT$3,000 (US$92.46) -- from Tu when he and his friends had returned to Taiwan.

A person is allowed to bring 200 cigarettes (one carton) into Taiwan duty free, and may pay NT$3,240 to bring in four additional cartons, for a total of five cartons. Any cigarettes beyond that amount will be seized by the authorities.

Tu used a hearing on Customs to work himself into a paroxysm of juvenile rage -- complete with props -- and attacked the hapless Lin.

"Do you know who I am now? Did I bring any cigarettes? Did I bring any cigarettes in this handbag? Did I?" shouted Tu during the commitee meeting, gesticulating at a bag he asserted was the same he had had when he entered Taiwan on Dec. 19. Yelling at Lin incessantly, Tu pulled items -- including a pair of underpants -- out of the bag and waved them around in the air.

After this frenetic display, Tu -- who said he was a non-smoker -- said he had never shouted abuse at Lin, adding that the cigarettes didn't belong to him, but to his friends.

He then accused Lin and Customs Director-General Yu Shaw-wu (俞邵武) -- who was also in attendance -- of working with the media and defaming him by leaking the story.

Lin was visibly frightened by the legislator's vicious tantrum, and said he didn't see if Tu had cigarettes at the time. He said that he had merely directed Tu to a different counter to deal with the issue. He closed his remarks by saying "may god bless you" to the lawmaker.

Five other DPP legislators joined in the bloodsport, supporting Tu and taking turns blasting Yu, Lin and the Customs office as a whole.

But DPP Legislator Lin Chung-mo (林重謨) was upset at seeing his fellow legislators assail Lin.

"Lin Chiu-tung didn't do anything wrong, and when he asked Tu and his friends to leave the [extra] cigarettes he was carrying out his duty. As a minor public servant, he is not supposed to be questioned in the legislature," Lin Chung-mo said.

Tu yesterday offered an apology to Lin Chiu-tung, saying "I felt sorry that [Lin] was pressured to be questioned in the legislative committee."

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus was far from satisfied by this peace offering, and asked Minister of Finance Joseph Lyu (呂桔誠) to resign, saying he was unable to take responsibility "to protect his dutiful staff."

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