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Airport staff punished for not letting cat out of bag

TAIPEI -- Aviation police authorities on Tuesday disciplined the people responsible for allowing a suitcase containing a live cat to get through security at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport without being discovered.

Three police officers and one security inspector have been disciplined and will be transferred or given reprimands for negligence, Aviation Police Bureau Chief Wang Lung said at a press conference.

Speaking of the latest security glitch, the second within a week at the country's main international gateway, Wang said the inspector who failed to identify the cat on May 24 was a contract employee who was recruited in March.

Suffering from a lack of manpower, the bureau has had to use contract employees to conduct security checks, Wang said.

As a result, the inspector — identified only by his surname Chan — was put to work screening checked baggage on conveyor belts immediately after completing 56 hours of aviation security training, Wang explained.

The inspector did not order a manual check of the suitcase after it was found by the X-ray machine to contain an unidentified orange object because he judged that it was not a dangerous item, Wang said.

After reviewing Chan's actions, the bureau determined he was negligent and now has him conducting body checks at metal inspection gates and double checks on carry-on baggage under the guidance of senior security people.

He will not be put on duty on his own until his professional knowledge and skills improve, Wang said.

The bureau, meanwhile, has decided to deploy senior personnel to screen X-ray images of checked luggage and inspect suitcases manually when necessary, he said.

The Taiwanese passenger flying to Incheon International Airport whose suitcase contained the animal was fined US$547 upon arrival in South Korea when the cat was discovered.

The traveler acknowledged that the animal was the family's pet cat, but he did not know how or when the cat sneaked into his luggage and hid there.

It was the second case indicating lax security at the Taoyuan airport since May 20, when a Japanese national flying from the airport to the Philippines was found on arrival to have two gallons of diesel fuel stored in his checked baggage.

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