Ministry of Finance in Taiwan has announced, if travelers bringing more than 6 cartons of cigarettes, they will be prosecuted. Many travelers were surprised at the news as the loss from cigarettes being confiscated was substantial and the added criminal charges were too much.
According to the regulation, every traveler entering country is allowed to carry one tax-free carton of cigarettes and for the next four cartons, travelers must pay tobacco tax, sales tax, customs and duties and health and welfare surcharge, a total of NT$370 (US$12.5). Six or more cartons will be confiscated.
The Ministry has recently sent official letters to all customs offices under Directorate General of Customs. According to Tobacco and Alcohol Administration Act, someone who brings contraband tobacco and alcohols without permission into the country will face two years’ imprisonment, detention or a fine from NT$200,000 (US$6,777.7) to $2,000,000 (US$67,777). Custom officers on duty should report any suspect with criminal potential.
Previously, custom officers only confiscated cigarettes and alcohols in excess of the allowed quantity. However, as the new order from the Ministry of Finance took effect, the officers began interrogating travelers who violated the regulation in addition to confiscating the excess cigarettes and alcohols as of March 1st.
Statistically, Taoyuan International Airport has tracked down 914 incidents (individuals) with excess cigarettes and alcohols last year and about 10 incidents from March 1st up till yesterday. If all the violators are to be interrogated and referred to district prosecutors office, custom officers’ workload will increase significantly. Custom officers reported the workload situation, pending the administrative decision to proceed with every incident.
Directorate General of Customs’ custom officers said, inbound travelers who carry excess cigarettes and alcohols and failed to declare are considered bringing illicit cigarettes and bootlegging. Whether they should be brought to justice depends on individual cases. If specific facts in the individual cases indeed met the criteria of “commercial value” of contraband cigarettes and bootlegging, the custom officers will not hesitate to refer incidences to judicial authorities. General travelers will not be affected.
Taipei Customs Office’s expatriated officers in airport’s second terminal have consecutively tracked down two cases and confiscated a total of 89 cartons of cigarettes which piled up at the customs’ desk yesterday. After record of inquires, they returned one tax-free and four customs-taxed cartons and detained the rest.