NSB head promises severe punishments in cigarette smuggling case

Taipei, Taiwan's new top intelligence chief Chiu Kuocheng vowed Friday to severely punish any security official involved in a recent high profile cigarette smuggling case.

Chiu, who recently took over as National Security Bureau (NSB) directorgeneral following the resignation of his predecessor Peng Shengchu in the wake of the scandal, made the declaration at his first press conference as NSB head.

According to Chiu, any NSB staff involved will be given punishments ranging from a demerit to reassignment, though he did not mention the possibility of dismissals.

NSB agents Wu Tsunghsien and Chang Hengchia who were seconded to the Office of Aidedecamp under the Presidential Office have been detained by prosecutors. The two men are accused of trying to smuggle about 9,800 cartons of cigarettes into the country dutyfree using President Tsai Ingwen's July 22 return from an oversea visit as cover.

While Wu and Chang are NSB agents, the Office of Aidedecamp under the Presidential Office is under the direct jurisdiction of the Presidential Office, raising concerns as to whether the responsibility for the illegal activities of members of those units lies with the NSB or the Presidential Office.

At the press conference, Chiu said all NSB agents serving under the Presidential Office will henceforth be under direct NSB supervision.

I am in charge of all NSB members, he said, in an effort to clarify the chain of command.

China Airlines (CAL), the airline Tsai flew on a 12day trip that took her to the United States and Taiwan's four Caribbean allies, has also been criticized for allowing the preorder of over NT$6 million (US$191,418) in duty free cigarettes when only one carton per passenger is allowed.

CAL has since transferred two executives involved in the scandal and placed other employees under administrative investigation.

Senior Vice President Lo Yamei was made executive assistant to the chairman, while Chiu Changhsin vice president in charge of the department responsible for dutyfree product sales, was appointed a senior specialist to the president July 26.

On Thursday, Taipei District Prosecutors Office interviewed eight CAL employees, including Lo, Chiu and CAL associate manager Yu Yao ) in an effort to better understand the process by which dutyfree items were preordered on the charter flight.

While Yu was released on NT$500,000 (US$15,887) bail Thursday, Chiu's bail was NT$700,000 (US$22,240) and Lo was released without bail Friday.

In a related development, the Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC) said Friday that the delivery of the cigarettes next to the aircraft violated related regulations, and noted that the first such illegal conduct occurred on March 19 2016, when former President Ma Yingjeou returned from his last overseas trip.

CAL has asked officials involved to provide details about the incident, noting that all relevant information has already been passed on to Taipei District Prosecutors Office, MOTC said in a statement.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel