The Taipei District Court on Friday convicted 14 defendants of corruption and tax evasion for bringing undeclared cartons of duty-free cigarettes into Taiwan on President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) return flight from a state visit to the Caribbean in 2019.
Convicted on breaches of the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例), Wu Tsung-hsien (吳宗憲) and Chang Heng-chia (張恒嘉), majors in the National Security Bureau (NSB), received prison terms of 10 years and four months, and 10 years and two months respectively.
Article 4, Item 4 of the act prohibits “using government vehicles to transport contraband or carry goods for tax evasion.”
Former China Airlines Ltd (CAL) chartered flight division vice president Chiu Chang-hsin (邱彰信) was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison after being found guilty of tax evasion under the Tax Collection Act (稅捐稽徵法).
Lin Chih-chien (林志建), an NSB colonel serving at the Special Service Command Center — the highest-ranking officer in the case — received a suspended prison term of six months.
Lin was given a lighter sentence because he confessed and cooperated with investigators, the decision said, adding that he also paid the NT$330,000 (US$11,943) in evaded taxes to the national treasury.
Six NSB sergeants who worked as drivers at the Special Service Command Center were sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven years to six years and two months for their part in transporting the contraband cigarettes.
“The defendants abused their authority, ignored their duty to obey our nation’s laws, and used government vehicles and equipment for personal gain,” the decision said.
It was the first ruling and can be appealed.
On July 22, 2019, NSB agents accompanying Tsai on an overseas trip attempted to smuggle 9,200 cartons of cigarettes worth NT$6 million into the nation.
The cigarettes were ordered from CAL’s online duty-free store on July 8, three days before Tsai embarked on the trip, and they were put into storage at an airport warehouse owned by China Pacific Catering Services Ltd.
Shortly before the flight landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the cigarettes were removed from the warehouse and loaded into five government vehicles, which attempted to leave the airport as part of Tsai’s motorcade before customs officers, acting on a tip-off, intercepted the vehicles in the airport’s rapid clearance lane.
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