China Airlines manager under fire for saying only Taiwan president did not buy cigarettes

Legislators who accompanied Tsai on tour threaten legal action

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A suspect (in yellow) being led to questioning about the cigarette smuggling scandal on July 26.

A suspect (in yellow) being led to questioning about the cigarette smuggling scandal on July 26. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A China Airlines (CAL) official came under fire Tuesday (July 30) for joking during a radio interview that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was the only passenger on her flight who had not bought duty-free cigarettes.

Two officers at the National Security Bureau (NSB) have been detained for trying to smuggle about 10,000 cartons of cigarettes into the country duty-free using the president’s July 22 return from a foreign tour as cover. CAL has since disciplined several managers for their apparent responsibility in failing to stop the practice.

After CAL department manager Liu Chien-wen (劉建文) joked on a radio talk show Tuesday morning that Tsai had apparently been the only passenger who had not bought any of the cigarettes, several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers who had been on the trip with her furiously denied any involvement.

The office of Legislative Yuan Vice Speaker Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said in a statement that the CAL official had seriously misled the public and harmed the image of those on board the presidential flight, the Central News Agency reported.

Other legislators also said they had not bought any duty-free goods during the trip, and several, including Tsai Chi-chang, said they were considering taking legal action against Liu.

Following the protests, the airline said that Liu had only been “describing the sales situation,” adding that it felt “sorry and upset” if his remarks had caused any problems.