Bali airport customs officer allegedly extorts Taiwanese tourist

File photo of airport activity. Photo: Indonesia’s Customs Office’s website.
File photo of airport activity. Photo: Indonesia’s Customs Office’s website.

As Bali’s tourism industry continues to recover, an allegation involving a “naughty” official at the airport might hamper the sector’s return to pre-Covid normalcy.

Local news outlets reported this morning that an unnamed Taiwanese tourist faced an unpleasant experience at the I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport. 

As reported by Taiwanese TV station TVBS, the tourist took a photo of a long queue ahead of them at customs to notify their driver, who was waiting to pick up the group of tourists.

An unnamed customs officer approached the tourist and told them that taking photos at the area was prohibited. The officer then brought the tourist to a small, dark room for interrogation.

The officer rebuffed the tourist’s explanation, and eventually demanded US$4,000 in fines. The tourist pretended that they did not have that much money and managed to haggle the fine down to US$270.

Taiwanese TV station CTS quoted the tourist as saying that they felt exploited and that the incident can scare off people from coming to the island.

Coconuts Bali has reached out to the Ngurah Rai Customs Office to verify the reports. Bowo Pramoedito, the spokesman of the office, said that they are looking into the allegations of extortion.

Coconuts Bali has also reached out to airport operator Angkasa Pura and Bali Police for statements and will update this article once more information becomes available.

Later reports emerged alleging that the officer was an immigration official and not customs officer.

The official Twitter account of the Immigration Office released a statement that they are investigating the case as well.

In 2015, a Taiwanese tourist alleged he was blackmailed and robbed by immigration officers at Ngurah Rai Airport.

It should be noted that the Ministry of Finance, which oversees the Customs and Excise department, is currently under intense public scrutiny amid widespread online exposure of tax and customs officials living well beyond the means of their modest pay.

Last week, a wheelchair-bound Finnish man said he was not able to retrieve a package containing urinary collection devices from the Ngurah Rai Customs Office due to a lack of “import permit.” After the clip of his struggle went viral, he finally managed to get the package after the office got in touch with the Ministry of Health.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We added a statement from the official Twitter account of the Immigration Department.

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