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Request for detention of NSB agents for smuggling cigarettes approved

2019/07/23 22:39

Taipei, July 23 (CNA) The Taipei District Court approved Tuesday a request by prosecutors for the detention of two National Security Bureau (NSB) agents who allegedly tried to smuggle thousands of cartons of cigarettes into Taiwan using President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) flight back from a Caribbean trip as a cover.

Investigators arrested and questioned 10 NSB staffers late Monday and filed the request the following day to detain two of them and hold them incommunicado pending a court order, for their alleged attempt to smuggle 9,800 cartons of cigarettes worth NT$6 million (US$191,418) into the island.

After questioning, prosecutors approved the request to detain Wu Tsung-hsien (吳宗憲), who was confirmed to have been a member of Tsai's security detail on her 12-day visit to the United States and the Caribbean, and Chang Heng-chia (張恒嘉).

The other eight individuals were released on bail after questioning.

Wu and Chang were caught trying to take advantage of the rapid Customs clearance treatment enjoyed by the government officials accompanying Tsai on her overseas trip to smuggle the cigarettes into Taiwan when Tsai and her entourage returned home Monday, according to a statement released by the Customs Administration.

The two allegedly ordered the cigarettes through China Airlines' online duty-free store with the help of a senior official at the airline and kept them in a warehouse of a CAL-affiliated onboard catering services company before Tsai's flight took off July 11.

At around noon Monday, shortly after Tsai's plane landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the cigarettes were removed by five official vehicles, which later followed Tsai's motorcade and attempted to leave the airport, according to the Customs Administration statement.

Acting on a tip-off, Customs officers and Investigation Bureau personnel intercepted the vehicles on the airport's rapid clearance lane at 1:25 p.m., the statement said.

The two suspects could be convicted of a felony that could result in a prison sentence of at least five years under the Anti-Corruption Act because the smuggling attempt may not have been the first of its kind and the monetary amount involved for a single case was significant, according to the court ruling.

The court also approved the application to hold the two suspects incommunicado to prevent possible collusion.

The scandal has resulted in the resignation of NSB Director-General Peng Sheng-chu (彭勝竹) and the demotion of Chief Aide-de-Camp to the President Chang Chieh (張捷).

(By Liu Shih-yi and Evelyn Kao)Enditem/J