Wed, Jul 24, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Two NSB officials detained over scandal

TOO DUTY FREE:Amid allegations that officials on presidential trips have long taken advantage of streamlined customs, prosecutors will look into incidents from Ma’s terms

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

The headquarters of the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau, which is responsible for the investigation into a cigarette-smuggling scandal, is pictured in New Taipei City on Monday.

Photo: Huang Chieh, Taipei Times

Two National Security Bureau (NSB) employees were detained with restricted communication yesterday on suspicion of involvement in a smuggling scandal.

New Power Party Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) on Monday accused NSB official Wu Tsung-hsien (吳宗憲) of attempting to take advantage of streamlined customs clearance given to officials accompanying President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on overseas visits to illegally bring a large quantity of cigarettes into the country.

Wu allegedly ordered more than 9,200 cartons of various brands of cigarettes through China Airlines’ (CAL) online duty-free store before leaving Taiwan as part of Tsai’s delegation on a trip to the Caribbean.

The cartons were kept in a warehouse at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport belonging to China Pacific Catering Services, a firm affiliated with CAL, the Customs Administration said yesterday in a statement.

The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office said that all 10 suspects in the case are military personnel assigned to jobs in the bureau.

The office requested detention for the two main suspects, Wu and presidential security staffer Chang Heng-chia (張恒嘉), due to their conflicting accounts and the likelihood that they would collude or tamper with evidence.

The other eight were released, after posting bail ranging from NT$200,000 to NT$500,000, pending an investigating into alleged breaches of the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) and the Tobacco and Alcohol Administration Act (菸酒管理法), prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they are also investigating potential involvement by CAL executives and other government officials.

The probe would also expand to cover official trips made during former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, as lawmakers have alleged that bureau units colluded with CAL and government officials to smuggle tobacco and alcohol into Taiwan aboard presidential flights.

According to reports by the Chinese-language Mirror Media magazine, which cited information provided by a CAL source, people in Ma’s presidential entourages allegedly used their privilege to bypass regular customs clearance and bring duty-free tobacco and alcohol into the country.

About 300 cartons of cigarettes were brought in after Ma’s visit to Africa and South America in January 2014, and 1,800 cartons were brought in after another trip in July that year, the magazine reported.

Ma’s final two overseas trips, in July 2015 and March 2016, saw about 3,000 and 3,677 cartons brought into the country respectively, it said.

The magazine reports did not say how much alcohol was smuggled.

Media commentators said that the issue stretches back to the administration of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), while others said that under Chang Kai-shek (蔣介石), smuggling of duty-free items and luxury goods on returning from official trips was a “regular feature” exploited by national security officials and people close to the president.

Bureau Director-General Peng Sheng-chu (彭勝竹) and chief aide-de-camp to the president Chang Chieh (張捷) have resigned over the scandal.

The Ministry of National Defense yesterday confirmed that Chang has been demoted and reassigned as an advisory member of the Army Command Headquarters Office.

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