Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) yesterday said the ministry has asked China Airlines (CAL) to investigate why cigarette smuggling by national security officials has seemingly become a norm since 2014 by taking advantage of the speedy clearance given to presidential charter flights.
Lin posted his remarks on Facebook after the airline on Sunday released data from 2006 to 2013 on the amount of cigarettes preordered for return flights of presidential state visits.
Previously, the airline had only provided figures from January 2014 to this month.
Photo: Ou Su-mei, Taipei Times
“Honesty is the best policy. After the incident involving national security officials smuggling cigarettes through presidential charter flights was exposed, CAL only provided data dating back to 2014, saying it could not locate earlier data after a system upgrade,” Lin wrote, adding that he was “very dissatisfied” with the airline’s attitude.
“The airline assigned some 20 employees in a bid to recover more data over the weekend after I demanded a thorough investigation. It made some progress on Sunday, successfully retrieving data from 2006 to 2013,” he wrote. “I have asked CAL to keep looking until the ultimate truth is revealed.”
The information published by the airline so far showed that of the 26 state trips for which it was the carrier, there were nine cases in which more than 1,000 cartons of cigarettes were preordered, Lin said.
Except for a state visit in October 2010, in which 1,683 cartons of cigarettes were preordered, the other eight cases took place after June 2014, he added.
“In other words, the airline has regularly received advance orders for at least 1,000 cartons of tax-free cigarettes since June 2014, which was the turning point. What exactly happened during this period? Did the national security officers do so with the sole purpose of evading the tobacco tax? Or were there other reasons?” Lin wrote.
“I have asked the airline to get to the bottom of the matter and to release the results of its investigation,” he added.
Lin said the airline has announced that passengers boarding presidential charter flights would not have any prerogative in terms of the purchase of tax-free products.
Like passengers of regular flights, the tax-free goods they purchase would be handed directly to them while they are onboard.
The airline should know by now that it can only regain the public’s trust by answering questions about the incident, Lin said.
In other developments, Presidential Office Secretary-General Chen Chu (陳菊) said that she would not shirk her responsibility if it is determined that she should be held accountable for the smuggling of tax-free cigarettes by security agents accompanying President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on her visit to the nation’s Caribbean allies.
She added that she is not the kind of person who would flee from her responsibility.
Chen said that she reserves the right to sue the netizen who falsely claimed that National Security Bureau officer Wu Tsung-hsien (吳宗憲), who allegedly placed an order for 3,500 cartons of duty-free cigarettes, was one of her aides when she was Kaohsiung mayor.
The netizen had tainted her reputation by twisting the facts and spreading rumors, Chen said at a book launch by Deputy Legislative Speaker Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌), adding that society should not tolerate such behavior.
RISK FACTORS: ‘We hope people can cooperate and endure it ... it is possibly the very important last mile,’ Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said Taiwan’s COVID-19 restrictions and mask regulations are to remain the same next month, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. The center reported 42,112 new local COVID-19 cases and 85 deaths, saying that the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has dropped to a new low this month. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said that the center is keeping COVID-19 restrictions and mask regulations the same due to the local virus situation, and an increase in the number of imported cases of the new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 of SARS-CoV-2, among other risk factors. Easing
TRAVEL CONFERENCE: Representatives from the two countries exchanged views on how to increase tourist numbers, with one identifying individual travel as a trend Taiwan and South Korea aim to increase the number of tourists traveling between the two countries to 3 million, government and tourism industry representatives said at a conference in Hsinchu City yesterday. The annual event was attended by Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Chen Yen-po (陳彥伯); Tourism Bureau Director-General Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰); Taiwan Visitors Association chairwoman Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭); South Korean Representative to Taiwan Chung Byung-won; Yoon Ji-sook, an official at the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; and Korea Association of Travel Agents chairman Oh Chang-hee. Global tourism is expected to soon rebound to between 55 and
DAMAGE CONTROL: The KMT in a statement called the Taiwan Strait ‘international waters,’ after Alexander Huang said China had the right to claim it as internal waters Lawmakers and experts yesterday accused the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) envoy to the US Alexander Huang (黃介正) of acting as China’s stooge, after he said that Beijing has the right to claim waters beyond its maritime territory as its exclusive economic zone and that the US has no legal basis to assert that the Taiwan Strait is an “international waterway.” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said in an online post that most of the world considers the Strait an international waterway, adding that this is important for safeguarding Taiwan. “We have seen US warships transiting through the Taiwan Strait.
The Taichung District Court yesterday sentenced to nine years in prison an unlicensed judo coach who caused the death of a seven-year-old student after slamming him onto the ground more than a dozen times. In its decision against the coach, a man surnamed Ho (何), the court cited his lack of remorse for using excessive force against an inadequately trained child and his failure to reconcile with the parents for his role in their son’s death. Speaking on behalf of the boy’s mother, Taichung City Councilor Jacky Chen (陳清龍) said the family would appeal to a higher court. Prosecutors said that Ho on