The government will strengthen customs inspections for diplomatic pouch containers used by foreign envoys in Taiwan, Department of Customs Administration Director General Chien Liang-chi (簡良機) said yesterday.
“One or two cases in which diplomatic pouch containers were used for smuggling were found last year. We will step up control to put an end to smuggling via this channel,” Chien said at the legislature’s Economics Committee.
Chien made the remarks in response to lawmakers’ questions following a report in yesterday’s Chinese-language China Times.
The paper said that Wu Shih-tsai (吳思材), a broker involved in the recent diplomatic fund scandal, was allegedly found smuggling peanuts, mushrooms and tobacco into the country via diplomatic pouch containers early last year.
The report said that Wu, who falsely claimed to be the commercial attache of the Haitian embassy, had bribed former Haitian ambassador Paul Raymond Peridon into sending diplomatic containers in which he concealed smuggled goods.
The Customs Tariff Act (關稅法) states that members of the foreign corps are free from inspections of goods they bring into Taiwan, but those goods can be inspected if the customs authorities think it is necessary, Chien said.
In related news, lawmakers sitting on the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee yesterday decided to unfreeze half of the NT$343.7 million (US$11.2 million) budget earmarked for training the 64 athletes who have qualified for this year’s Beijing Olympics.
The committee had frozen the budget contingent on the Sports Affairs Council’s briefing to lawmakers about its plan to help the athletes win gold medals in August.
Earlier this year, the council predicated Taiwanese athletes could win seven gold medals, with the best chances in the taekwondo, weightlifting, archery and tennis competitions.
The council, however, said recently that only Chu Mu-yen (朱木炎), who won a gold medal in the taekwondo competition at the Athens Olympics in 2004, has at least a 70 percent chance of winning a gold medal this year.