Fri, Jun 08, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Lai orders report on mailbags missing from airport

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Premier William Lai, right, waves at guests as he leaves the Taiwan Sustainability Summit in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: CNA

Premier William Lai (賴清德) on Wednesday ordered the Customs Administration to submit a report on a security lapse at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport that resulted in the disappearance of most of a large shipment of mailbags in a suspected attempt to smuggle narcotics or firearms.

Lai issued the order during a briefing on efforts to maintain social security by Cabinet-level agencies at the Executive Yuan in Taipei.

He lauded customs inspectors in Keelung for cracking the largest firearms smuggling case in the year to date, confiscating 109 firearms and more than 12,378 bullets.

However, quoting the Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) — which was the first to report the alleged security breaches — Lai said that the unauthorized transport of cargo at the Taoyuan airport on May 7 nonetheless suggested negligence on the part of customs.

The incident showed that customs officers did not consider the possibility of suspects substituting contraband for permitted goods during cargo transfers, which could be a new way of smuggling that requires close attention, he said.

Reminding customs officers of the importance of their role in maintaining social security, Lai urged them to be more vigilant while inspecting incoming and outgoing shipments.

The Customs Administration confirmed that the breach had taken place, but gave a different figure for the number of mailbags that went missing.

Prosecutors have launched a probe into the incident amid concern that large quantities of controlled drugs might have entered the black market.

Under current customs procedures, containers in transit are not opened and checked until after they leave the warehouse, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Wu Tzu-hsin (吳自心) said, adding that this could present a potential pitfall during the delivery process.

The ministry conducted a review of freight forwarding practices shortly after learning of the incident and concluded that “high-risk” shipments are to be checked by sniffer dogs at the Keelung Customs Office, Wu said.

The incident also highlighted problems with some companies’ management of privately-owned warehouses — a practice that has been adopted since the early 2000s under the free-trade harbor system, he said.

Customs officers are to step up management of warehouses operated by firms that have demonstrated subpar oversight, he said.

Lai also asked the Ministry of the Interior to make cracking down on criminal gangs — in particular those pretending to be political parties — a priority in the run-up to the nine-in-one local elections on Nov. 24 to prevent them from intimidating potential voters or engaging in vote-buying.

He ordered the ministry to deliver a briefing on its efforts regarding this topic during the next meeting on social security.

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