TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwan's beefed up penalties for meat smuggling kick in today, including an NT$200,000 (NT$6,489) fine for first-time offenders and an NT$1 million fine for repeat offenders.
As the African swine fever (ASF) epidemic rages across China, the Council of Agriculture (COA) held a press conference yesterday to announce that starting today (Dec. 18), the fine for passengers caught smuggling meat into Taiwan from countries affected by ASF has been raised from NT$50,000 for the first offense, to NT$200,000. While the fine for those who are caught trying smuggle meat into Taiwan two or more times has been raised from NT$500,000 to NT$1 million.
As seizures of illegally transported meat started to rise, the government in late November increased the original fines from a range of NT$3,000 (US$97) to NT$15,000 to between NT$10,000 and NT$1 million. However, the threat of the news fines, a text alert about ASF sent by the government on Dec. 12, and the use of sniffer dogs in airports all failed to deter determined passengers from smuggling meat into Taiwan.
On Dec. 14, the new penalties went into effect, with four violations reported at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on the first day of its effect. Over the weekend, a total of 17 cases of meat being seized from passengers at airports and ports were reported from 4 p.m. Dec. 15 to 4 p.m. Dec. 16, according to statistics from the BAPHIQ.
COA deputy chief Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城) yesterday said that, although 50 or 60 smugglers had been caught, it had not achieved the desired results and the flow of illegal meat has not been effectively reduced. Therefore, he said the agency has decided that the penalties will be increased effective on Dec. 18, and the identities of violators, including those of international tourists, will be recorded to enforce additional fines for further infractions, reported Apple Daily.
Huang said that, although announcements have been given on international flights in both English and Chinese informing passengers about the ban on meat from ASF-infected countries, Vietnamese spouses of Taiwanese and tourists have apparently not been able to understand them. Therefore, Huang said that airlines will now also broadcast the announcements in Vietnamese during flights to and from Vietnam.
In response to previous discoveries of meat products purchased online in China and carried by passengers as gifts in their luggage, Huang said that Customs is strengthening its X-ray procedures and stepping up the use of sniffer dogs for cargo on planes. He said that as small amounts of meat are difficult to detect, Customs inspectors are experimenting with new methods to detect small quantities of meat products.
Huang said that those who unknowingly ordered products online that included meat from banned countries will not be punished, if they immediately report the meat products to officials upon receipt.