Taipei prosecutors have expanded the scope of an investigation into a group of government employees who allegedly joined a scheme to take advantage of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) most recent official state visit to Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in the Caribbean to purchase duty-free cigarettes and other goods.
Wu Tsung-hsien (吳宗憲) and Chang Heng-chia (張恒嘉), two officers on the National Security Bureau’s presidential security unit, have reportedly agreed to cooperate with the investigation.
Wu and Chang were on Tuesday detained with restricted communications. Pundits at the time speculated that the two had a leading role in the scandal.
However, prosecutors yesterday said that the evidence and a list of 50 names provided by Wu show that the two were turned into “scapegoats,” as they were apparently following the orders of high-ranking officials at the bureau and other government agencies.
Wu and Chang were instructed to circulate a group order form to the people on the list to enable them to buy duty-free cigarettes and other foreign goods, including brand-name handbags, cosmetics and other luxury items, prosecutors said.
The items could bypass customs clearance at the airport due to privileges granted to security personnel and staff on the president’s entourage for overseas trips, they said.
It was the third time Wu and Chang received such orders during Tsai’s time in office, prosecutors said, adding that similar “group orders” were carried out by the inner circle of officials and staffers since at least the time in office of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), whose first overseas visit was in January 2014.
Investigators would next summon for questioning the 50 people on the list, which consists of officials and staff at the bureau, the National Security Council and the Presidential Office, as well as two female China Airlines ground crew supervisors and the wives of top officials at other government agencies, said a source at the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Wu has been cooperative during questioning and agreed to provide further evidence in exchange for a reduced sentence, as he faces severe penalties if convicted for 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), the source said.
As of press time last night, the total number of cigarette cartons seized as evidence rose to 10,000, as prosecutors have added 200 cartons ordered by officials onboard the presidential plane to the 9,800 cartons that were stored at a China Airlines facility at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
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