Spy’s French cooking course stirs debate

The China Post news staff

The China Post news staff–Taiwan’s military intelligence body has come under fire after one of its agents returned as a Le Cordon Bleu-certified chef following a so-called undercover mission in France, a newspaper reported yesterday. The agent, whose NT$1 million tuition for the cooking classes in France was sponsored by the military, has now lent his Le Cordon Bleu certificate to someone else for a fee, the United Evening News said. The Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB) did not deny the report but declined to comment on what it called the nation’s intelligence work, the paper said. But any unethical practice, breach of regulations or illegal acts will be dealt with according to the law, the MIB was cited as saying. The paper said it is common for intelligence bodies to dispatch their agents to overseas missions disguised as short-term studies and various other forms of activities. But such studies often provide the agents with capabilities that they can use after retirement, the paper cited sources as saying.

The so-called overseas undercover programs are often more like government-funded training to enable the agents’ post-retirement careers, the sources said. The Le Cordon Bleu-certified agent, surnamed Chang, was sent to France to study cooking for nine months, during which his actual work — in theory — was to collect intelligence, the paper said. Chang later returned to the MIB but made good use of his chef certificate by loaning it to someone else, which constitutes a case of alleged violation of the regulations by seeking personal gain from his government work, the paper said. The paper said the MIB’s agents in France have seldom produced good performance from their intelligence collecting. Lee Tien-to, a former chief of the France unit of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, said the agent’s chief work should have been intelligence collecting while studying cooking in Paris, according to the paper. Lee said many Chinese people run restaurants in France, and intelligence collecting activities often take place at these places where Chinese pro-democracy activists and community leaders would visit. But military-operated undercover missions are not meant to enable agents’ post-retirement careers, the paper said.