China Airlines stops selling duty-free cigarettes on its planes

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(CNA photo)

A China Airlines (CAL) spokesman confirmed Monday that the carrier stopped selling duty-free cigarettes on its planes from Sunday.

The move came in response to a more complex customs clearance procedure imposed by the Customs Administration following a high-profile attempted cigarette smuggling incident in July that allegedly involved government security agents and CAL staffers.

CAL spokesman Jason Liu (劉朝洋) told CNA that the suspension will last for at least six months.

Liu said the decision was made after the Customs Administration recently informed CAL that it would tighten customs clearance procedures for duty-free cigarettes sold aboard CAL aircraft.

The suspension only applies to cigarettes and CAL will continue to sell other duty-free products on its aircraft, he added.

The Customs Administration's decision was made after nine National Security Bureau (NSB) and Presidential Office officials and four CAL staffers were formally charged in August after trying to smuggle cigarettes in conjunction with an overseas visit by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in July.

On July 22, the day Tsai returned to Taiwan on a CAL flight from a 12-day-overseas trip to the Caribbean with stopovers in the United States, it came to light that two NSB agents had used her flight as cover for an alleged smuggling attempt involving about 10,000 cartons of cigarettes.

A subsequent investigation showed that similar operations had been going on since at least 2014, prompting the Presidential Office, CAL and the NSB to launch a series of probes and reforms.