Taiwan’s intelligence chief resigns over smuggled cigarettes

Published July 24, 2019, 12:46 AM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Agence France-Presse

Taiwan’s intelligence chief has stepped down after an agent who was accompanying President Tsai Ing-wen on a state visit overseas was caught attempting to smuggle nearly 10,000 cartons of cigarettes.

National Security Bureau (NSB) head Peng Sheng-chu tendered his resignation on Monday to take responsibility, the presidential office said.

The scandal revolved around a security agent within Tsai’s entourage who tried to bring in 9,800 cigarette cartons through a VIP lane as they returned from an official trip to the Caribbean on Monday, the Customs Administration said.

The agent pre-ordered the cigarettes online in Taiwan, stored them at a warehouse at the airport, then tried to smuggle them past customs through the VIP lane to avoid paying duty, according to an opposition lawmaker who tipped authorities off and local media reports.

Tsai’s office said she was “shocked and angered” by the scandal and had ordered an investigation.

The president also posted a statement on Facebook late Monday acknowledging public criticism.

“We will deeply reflect and review to prevent such scandals,” wrote Tsai, who will seek a second term next year.

Taiwan’s customs law limits travellers to a maximum five cartons of cigarettes — and only one can be tax-free.

The scandal came to light after authorities received a tip-off from opposition lawmaker Huang Kuo-chang.

The cigarettes were worth more than $200,000, according to Huang.