Taiwan Transportation Minister sends deputy to supervise China Airlines in smuggling scandal

Intelligence agents detained after attempt to use presidential trip as cover for smuggling operation

cigarette smuggling scandal

cigarette smuggling scandal (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) sent his deputy, Wang Kuo-tsai (王國材), to China Airlines (CAL) Wednesday (July 24) to find out more about the company’s role in a cigarette-smuggling scandal affecting the nation’s top intelligence agency and the Presidential Office.

Two military officers at the National Security Bureau (NSB) were detained for having tried to smuggle 9,800 cartons of cigarettes into Taiwan using President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) return from her foreign trip last Monday (July 22) as cover.

As the tobacco products were stored inside a warehouse owned by a CAL-affiliated catering company, suspicion was raised that managers at the carrier might also have been involved, reports said.

Lin was furious about CAL having failed so far to present a report about the case, the Central News Agency reported. Deputy Minister Wang also served as chairman of the airline’s largest shareholder, giving him the authority to investigate the company.

During questioning, the two NSB agents reportedly came up with a list of about 50 people who had ordered cigarettes. The list included officials from various government departments as well as socialites, reports said.

New allegations surfaced Wednesday that the five trucks used to cart the 196 boxes containing the 9,800 cartons from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport past customs were registered at the Presidential Office, and not by the NSB, said New Power Party lawmaker Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), who first brought the scandal to light.

The Presidential Office was expected to respond to the latest developments Wednesday afternoon.

President Tsai was reportedly “furious” at the misuse of her foreign trip by smugglers, and had ordered a thorough investigation, including into the possibility that the same NSB agents had also smuggled cigarettes during her previous overseas visits.

The scandal also resulted in the resignation of the intelligence agency’s chief, Director General Peng Sheng-chu (彭勝竹), who was succeeded by Minister of Veterans Affairs Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) according to a Presidential Office announcement.