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Bali Police - The Balinese Mafia

It is a fact that Indonesia's police and judiciary are at the very top of the world corruption league, period. Although their corruption extends past minor civil rights violations to human rights abuse even murder, BLTF only deals here with what the tourist may likely encounter; a chance for bent police officers to make a few bucks from them. Unfortunately such petty extortion for a few dollars they can easily afford tends to minimalize foreigners perceptions of the problem and of the true extent and effect of corruption upon others.

Be assured, corrupt Balinese police officers ruin people's lives, and therefore any self-respecting human being has a duty to do something about it when they can; the problem is what and how. The only people you can report police corruption to in Indonesia are the Indonesian Corruption Commission who turn any cases they believe have merit back to the police, or you can complain to the chief of police for the appropriate island themselves! So complaints are hardly ever or even never acted upon. The other issue of course is what happens to anyone who dares to report or otherwise stand up to police corruption while they are actually on the island. Not least as paying a police officer some "bribe" money is a criminal offence, so a report of corruption also provides the police with potential cause to arrest the complainant. But it is possible to report corruption in such a way as to be effective and without personal risk of retaliation or retribution; this method is detailed at the end of the page.

First though, if a corrupt police officer tries to extort money from you, it is poignant to understand two things;

1) A corrupt police officer will likely give you two choices; go to court or pay a spot fine without receipt. If you go to court you are unlikely to win because it is your word against theirs and anyway, corrupt police collude with corrupt prosecutors and judges. So by fighting a "spot fine" you will only be increasing, greatly, the amount of time you spend in the "company" of law enforcement [sic] officers and also significantly increase the amount of money that will eventually be taken from you. Even if you have evidence or witnesses you are unlikely to win and may simply anger the judge, who may hold you in contempt of court.

2) The moment if and when an alleged criminal offence becomes very public (gets into the hands of the media or your consulate / embassy), the police and colluding judiciary will likely no longer be willing to extort money / take bribe money from you in order to make the problem go away. Therefore if you are falsely accused of any offence through corruption and you make the matter public by means of either your country's consulate or the media while you are on the island, the corrupt police and judiciary will not then be able to consider taking money from you to let the problem go away and may well be determined to teach you a lesson and "show" the world they are legitimate [sic] by duly sentencing you.

Now let BLTF take you, a foreign tourist, through the acts of corruption you are most likely to witness or become a victim of.

The most common forms of police extortion is for alleged traffic violations, often spurious; being told you did something when you know full well you did not. A few dollars lighter and then you are allowed to go on your way. Corrupt traffic police are so brazen that even when they stop you at a check point and you have all the correct documentation, they will ask you for a donation! Watch out also for your poor driver if you are not driving yourself. If he gets stopped by police and they go and "chat" just out of view, the police are most likely extorting money from him.

Road traffic accidents are a firm favorite with every day Balinese police officers for obtaining larger sums of money from tourists. The owner of BLTF was once driving along a straight section of road at a steady safe speed and was hit on the rear offside corner of his rental car by a speeding motorcycle, stolen in Lombok, by two Javanese youths en route to their own island and who were both high on drugs. They sped along the nearside of the road coming from behind the car and in a position where they could not see traffic coming the other direction. They were going so fast and made such a late exaggerated overtaking maneuver the bike clipped the rear bumper of the car, bouncing them into the side of a truck passing the other way, before bouncing them back into the car's passenger door and finally crashing to the ground.

While waiting for the police, etc. to arrive a local pointed an air rifle at the car and lorry driver warning them not to try and escape, although they would already have both been long gone if that were their intention. During the wait a local bemo was used to cart the two injured young men off, one of whom the car driver was sure would die due to his extensive injuries. When the police arrived and surveyed the scene and took verbal statements, they advised the car driver he was lucky as he had a good accident; because the damage was at the rear of his vehicle, he would be financially less liable. The lorry driver who probably did not even see the motorbike until it made its dramatic overtaking maneuver, was told he had a bad accident because the accident damage was near the front of his truck. That is how things work in Bali.

The lorry driver was given a police cell although apparently / allegedly he was not under official arrest. The car driver was allowed to go to their local hotel pending the "crash investigation". The next day both the truck and car driver were taken miles to the hospital in which the young men had been taken; actually the car driver was required to drive the police officer and truck driver in their damaged vehicle as the police were unwilling to use their own vehicles; BLTF's owner subsequently found out this is common as the police have to buy their own petrol / gasoline. The police made a big deal about the fact that these two young men had no money to pay for their treatment and transport home, so the truck and car drivers would need to pay for their care and repatriation to Java! Even though the young men were taking drugs and on a stolen bike, they were apparently not arrested or detained over this. In hindsight the car driver realizes this was probably because they had no money for the police to extort from them.

Afterwards the car and truck driver along with the police officer had to go back to the police station and over days a settlement cost was finally negotiated to allow the car and lorry driver to go about their business; the lorry driver had to wait as a "guest" of the police for his boss to drive from Java to pay the settlement. All the time money was discussed the police officers made mention of the car driver's nice watch, how rich foreigners were and how little money this all was for him. The settlement was not paid to the hospital however but to the senior police officer's assistant. The process took 3 days out of the car driver's holiday and cost him US$250 (they originally asked for US$3000) with the police and a further US$200 with the car rental company; they demanded US$500, but had originally agreed to just US$100 excess and yet still wanted more for the trouble this had caused them. It is not known how much the truck driver had to pay nor how what percentage if any of the money taken by the police actually went to the hospital or injured men.

Also, be warned, some poor foreigners have reported they stopped to help victims of other people's accidents and were themselves then blamed because they were there and foreign and therefore probably had insurance and / or could afford it.

Alleged drugs possession and public disorder offences come next, and yes, victims do often say drugs found on them were planted there. We have credible reports of people being caught with marijuana on them having to pay thousands of dollars in police bribe money to make the problem go away. Foreigners with homes in and / or connections with Bali can expect to pay more than tourists; we understand as much as US$45,000 for being caught with personal use narcotics. Of course even this amount is likely preferable to 10 or 15 years in an Indonesian jail for possession and use of narcotics. With the fact that dealers sit along Bali's main tourist thoroughfares in large numbers seemingly clearly with the knowledge and co-operation of police, planted drugs may well be something that happens frequently.

OK, so you witness or are exposed to corrupt police activities, what should you do? First understand if you do nothing, you need to hold your head in shame and think about how lucky you are in comparison with the poor everyday people of Bali who get abused. Clearly it is better for you to pay the "fine" and be on your way as soon as possible without inviting any trouble, and that is what BLTF recommends you therefore do. But while you are being extorted or are aware of your driver being extorted, make a note of the exact time, the location and the police officer's name (they all wear name badges). Then when you leave Bali send a letter to the chief of police for Bali, the Indonesian Corruption Commission and your country's consulate in Bali or embassy in Indonesia.

The letter needs to be properly addressed (with a valid reply address for you AND your email address) and say this (assuming you were the victim) (the chief of police speaks / reads English and the Indonesian Corruption Commission take complaints in English);

Dear General Pastika (Chief of Police)

I was fined (amount) rupiah by officer (name) at (time) on (date) at (location) for allegedly (offence). I wanted to contest the alleged offence as (reason), but did not want to ruin my holiday by having to go to court in Denpasar and without any material evidence as a judge would probably not be able to take my word over that of a police officer; so I paid the fine. However afterwards I realized the officer had not given me a receipt as I believe is required of him. When I returned home from Bali it was suggested to me that the officer had in fact stopped me with no good reason in order to extort money from me for himself. I am shocked if this is true so can you please therefore take this letter as either;

a) My request to be given a receipt for the money paid to the police officer; please give the receipt to my country's consulate / embassy (delete as applicable) at (their address) - I have copied them in this letter so they are aware, or

b) If there is no record of my fine, please will you accept this as my complaint about the police officer's conduct and launch an immediate investigation into the matter. Although I do not believe it could be possible that a police officer would dare do such a thing, I have copied this letter to the Indonesian Corruption Commission in case it is true so they can also investigate. If I subsequently receive through my embassy / consulate a receipt for the fine you will of course get my personal apology for even suggesting corruption in the first place and I would of course then also write to the corruption commission advising them the matter has been resolved and was not one of corruption.

Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi; please provide me with a complaint reference number so I can refer to this with you again.

General Pastika: If there is a record of my fine, please can you let my consulate / embassy has a copy so they can notify me of the fact. But if there is no official record of my fine, please provide me with an investigation case number against this officer under my complaint.

Please reply one way or another either directly to me or to my consulate / embassy; I have provided my email address above so they can easily and quickly contact me regarding this.

Yours sincerely

(your signature)

You then need to send this letter, registered delivery to both the Balinese police chief and the Indonesian Corruption Commission, with a copy to your embassy or consulate in Indonesia (it is not necessary to send the later by registered mail). The addresses are as follows;

Irjen. Polisi Made Mangku Pastika
Kapolda Bali
Jl. W.R. Supratman No.7
Denpasar - Bali 80233

Drs. H. Taufiequrachman Ruki, SH
Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi
Jl. Veteran III No. 2
Jakarta 10110

If you witnessed but did not suffer corruption, you should be able to construct an appropriate letter bases on the above.

By doing it this way you are ensuring you can not be accused of either bribing or defaming a police officer. If enough foreign tourist victims of police corruption in Bali send such letters, the authorities will have to do something; Indonesia is one huge bureaucracy and each letter has to be noted, passed to the correct officer, a case created, filed and even sometimes responded to (though don't bank on it). The volume of administrative work from properly made complaints by foreign victims of police corruption in Bali would drown them in paperwork if every victim did their bit. And by involving your country's embassy or consulate, you are both protecting yourself and making them aware of what is going on; of course they know already, but official letters require more action on their part.

A few minutes work and a little postage money can help to make a big difference for both fellow travellers and the poor everyday Balinese. Conversely, if you have read this page and then witness or become a victim of extortion by Balinese police and do nothing, the next time tourists are killed by terrorist bombs on Bali, and / or the next ex-judicial killing happens on Bali, and / or the next civil or human rights violation that occurs on Bali, and / or when you next see an impoverished Balinese (it is a fact corruption causes economic misery), etc. BLTF hopes you will look in the mirror and know your inaction played a part, no matter how small, in someone else's demise.

At this time we have not been made aware of a pronounced law enforcement corruption problem on Lombok, except by token of reports that Indonesia as a whole has the worst judicial corruption in the world.

It is not just corrupt police in Bali that negatively affects decent people's lives, it is also the much maligned and often very nasty business community, and that means Bali Hotels, Bali Villas and Bali Travel Agents / Tour Operators.