Taiwan president’s security detail implicated in cigarette smuggling scandal

Taiwan cigarette smugglingAt least 70 members of Taiwan’s presidential security detail used the president’s official trips abroad to smuggle thousands of cigarettes into the country, it has been announced by Taiwan’s’s spy chief. According to news reports from Taiwan, the smuggling scandal was uncovered last month, when the country’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, concluded an official tour of several Caribbean nations. Taiwanese customs officers stopped a security agent in President Tsai’s entourage, who allegedly tried to bring nearly 10,000 cartons of duty-free cigarettes into the country. The agent had ordered the cigarettes online prior to the presidential trip. He then concealed the cartons in an airport warehouse and planned to bring them into the country by disguising them as supplies used by President Tsai’s motorcade.

The customs officials contacted China Airlines, the national carrier of Taiwan, and requested information on the number of duty-free cigarette cartons that had been brought onboard by members of the president’s entourage during her foreign trips. The data revealed that thousands of cartons had been transported during presidential trips, which pointed to an organized smuggling operation by dozens of members of Tsai’s entourage. A subsequent investigation by the National Security Bureau (NSB), Taiwan’s spy service, revealed that the smuggling network had begun operating during the presidency of Ma Ying-jeou, Tsai’s predecessor. The scandal prompted the resignation of the director of the NSB. On Friday, the NSB’s new Director, Chiu Kuo-cheng, gave a rare press conference in which he provided further details on the case. According to Chiu, 49 members of the presidential security detail, 25 NSB officers and two members of Taiwan’s Military Police, participated in the smuggling network. Most smuggled between 10 and 50 cartons of cigarettes per trip; but some smuggled over 1,000 cartons per trip.

Chiu said on Friday that two NSB officers had been placed under arrest for their participation in the smuggling ring, and further arrests were being planned. He warned those responsible that he had personally taken command of the NSB’s investigation, and that punishment would be “severe” for those found to have participated in the smuggling. Chiu added that a number of China Airlines officials were also implicated in the smuggling network and were being questioned. On Saturday, President Tsai said she had no knowledge that members of her own security detail were smuggling duty-free cigarettes into Taiwan.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 August 2019 | Permalink

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Al-Qaeda attack on Chinese ship uncovers IRA smuggling racket

Provisional IRA muralBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An attack by Islamist militants on a Chinese cargo ship has unveiled a massive smuggling racket by Irish gangs consisting of former members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, commonly known as Provisional IRA. The revelation has inflamed existing tensions between Irish Republican militants linked to Sinn Fein –the political wing of the IRA– and a host of smuggling gangs operating on the border areas that connect the Irish state with Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. The smuggling case was originally unearthed back in July of this year, when a group of militants linked to al-Qaeda fired two rocket-propelled grenades at Cosco Asia, a Hong Kong-registered Chinese commercial vessel, which is one of the world’s largest cargo ships. The attack, which occurred as the ship was sailing through the Suez Canal, shook the maritime-security world at the time, as it illustrated the rising lawlessness of the Sinai Peninsula following the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt. Ironically, the attack literally blew the lid off a complex smuggling operation. Specifically, one of the RPG rockets struck a container that, according to the ship’s manifest, was supposed to contain furniture. Inspectors who examined the damaged container, however, found that it was full of packets of cigarettes, which were destined to a company in County Louth, Ireland. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the firm didn’t exist, but was rather a front company for a smuggling gang operating in the Irish borderlands. Shipping inspectors contacted the Gardai, Ireland’s police force, as well as customs officials in Dundalk, Ireland, who proceeded to seize the cargo in September. A subsequent police investigation found that the smuggled cigarettes, which had an estimated street value of €4.3 million, had been purchased by “a consortium” of IRA-linked factions operating in County Louth. In a new report published last weekend, Ireland’s Independent on Sunday said that the same gangs who were behind the failed smuggling operation are also involved in laundering diesel fuel throughout South Armagh in Northern Ireland. Read more of this post

American who disappeared in Iran in 2007 was working for the CIA

Iran and its regionBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
An American private investigator, who was last seen in Iran in 2007, was under contract with the United States Central Intelligence Agency when he disappeared, according to information published last week. Bob Levinson was last seen alive in a hotel in Iran’s Kish Island, on March 8, 2007. He was reportedly there as a private investigator, to explore alleged links to a worldwide cigarette smuggling network. Both his family and the CIA have vehemently denied rumors that he was secretly working for the US government when he disappeared. Last week, however, the Associated Press and The Washington Post published lead articles in which they alleged that Levinson had been on a CIA mission at the time of his disappearance. The Associated Press, which described the news as “one of the biggest scandals in recent CIA history”, said it decided to run the story after agreeing to delay its publication three times in the past. The news agency said it first confirmed Levinson’s ties to the CIA in 2010, but was told by the US government that airing a story on the subject would compromise Levinson’s safety. Government officials reportedly told Associated Press editors that they were “pursuing promising leads” to get Levinson home, and that news of his CIA connection would fatally hamper their efforts. However the news agency decided to publish the story because, as its editors said, Levinson’s captors now “almost certainly know about his CIA association”. In a story aired on Friday, CNN said it spoke to an unnamed source “involved in the matter”, who confirmed that Levinson was in Iran on private business, but was also under contract with the CIA as an undercover agent. Read more of this post