The Control Yuan yesterday censured the Directorate-General of Customs and its Taipei office, accusing it of “lax management” and “poor oversight” when it punished an “honest official” who was only trying to do his job.
According to a report by Control Yuan members Huang Huang-hsiung (黃煌雄) and Chao Chang-ping (趙昌平), in 2004, a customs official surnamed Lee (李), who was responsible for overseeing a customs warehouse in Taipei, discovered three sets of golf clubs that were imported from Xiamen, China, but were documented as US-branded “TaylorMade” clubs.
Lee suspected they were counterfeit and asked his Taipei office colleagues to investigate, but the importer of the products quickly requested that the customs office return them to the shipper, claiming they were “defective products of poor quality.”
Lee’s boss, surnamed Shih (施), approved the importer’s request by forging Lee’s signature to the approval form, allowing the goods to be sent back to China before they could be collected as evidence in an intellectual property rights case.
The Control Yuan report said Shih’s actions amounted to a “major dereliction of duty.”
Between 2004 and 2005, the supervisor of the Taipei customs office received information alleging that it was Lee who compromised by approving the importer’s request to return the suspect golf clubs.
According to the Control Yuan, the supervisor knew that Lee had acted professionally and responsibly and that his strict enforcement of the law often offended importers and customs brokers.
However, instead of talking to Lee and other customs officials and conducting an investigation, Shih accepted the importer’s account of the situation and decided to punish Lee for “violating customs rules and regulations” in handling the case, the two Control Yuan members said.
The two members said that this was a clear example of poor management and supervision at the customs bureau and its Taipei office, with both failing to execute their official duties properly and legally.
They added that both customs units made “grave errors” when they failed to get to the bottom of the incident and punished an honest official like Lee, who had done the right thing.
The incident also showed that customs authorities were unable to strictly enforce customs regulations, they said.