In a surprising twist, five immigration officers stationed at Ngurah Rai Immigration post in I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport, Bali, found themselves in hot water on November 14th. Their alleged involvement in extorting money from tourists to access the fast-track arrivals lane has ignited a firestorm of controversy in Bali.
Officials are now reevaluating the efficacy of the fast-track lane and reiterating their commitment to preserving the airport as a ‘Corruption Free Zone.’
The incident came to light when officers were reportedly caught charging tourists for a service explicitly designated for VIPs, elderly travelers, or those with special needs. Bali Regional Secretary, Dewa Made Indra, expressed appreciation for the prompt intervention of the Bali High Prosecutors Office, putting a halt to what he termed an illegal operation.
While acknowledging the well-intentioned implementation of the fast-track lane to address specific needs during peak arrival times, Indra emphasized that this should never translate into personal financial gains for immigration officers.
Indra directed a message to immigration officers across the province, stressing the impropriety of exploiting fast-track services for extortion.
Notably, he clarified that the case falls under the jurisdiction of the Bali High Prosecutors Office and the Directorate General of Immigration, emphasizing that the provincial government is not directly handling the matter.
Solving Issues Regarding Immigration
Despite authorities clarifying the illegality of paying for fast-track services, insiders revealed that this situation had persisted for some time. Local tourism expert Panudiana Kuhn disclosed that the fast-track service, initially positioned as a VIP offering, was previously accessible to anyone willing to pay IDR 275,000 per person.
During the arrests, it was revealed that the Bali High Prosecutor’s Office team confiscated IDR 100 million (USD 6,400) in cash, hinting at tourists’ involvement in the illicit arrangement.
Kuhn underscored that many major international airports provide free fast-track services for business class passengers, urging Indonesia, as a developing country, to aspire to deliver excellent immigration services without additional charges.
Responding to the extortion case, the Association of Indonesia Travel Agents (Asita) is championing new regulations to enhance control over the system and introduce an official paid priority processing service at the airport.
Putu Winastra, Chairman of Asita Bali, expressed regret over the incident, emphasizing the need for transparent regulations ensuring funds contribute to the state treasury. Despite the stain from this case, he called for collective efforts to elevate Bali’s tourism quality.