One of 6 ‘Ringleaders’ Named in Airport Visa Scam

DENPASAR ~ One of six alleged ringleaders in a Rp3 billion (US$300,000) Bali airport visa-on-arrival corruption scandal was named on Wednesday as Ulul Raja Azmi. The public prosecutor named him as one of a number of people publicly identified to mark Anti-Corruption Day.

The airport scam, which came to light six months ago and which has led to media pressure on the prosecutor over lack of progress since, involved immigration officials falsifying visa paperwork to record US$25 30-day visas on arrival as $10 seven-day visas and pocketing the difference.

On Monday the prosecutor’s office, questioned by the media, said some of those involved would be named this month.

When the scam was revealed six months ago investigators said it had taken place between October 2008 and May this year.

Law enforcement agencies have since investigated at least 94 Immigration officers employed at Ngurah Rai International Airport during that period of time.

On Monday deputy public prosecutor AF Darmawan said investigation results were not yet available because prosecutors wanted to gather enough evidence and properly follow processes to ensure the perpetrators did not escape trial.

“I’ve pointed out that the suspects will be identified this month,” he said on Monday. “The investigators are still pursing the suspects.”

Ninety-four of the Immigrations officials who have been investigated have been demoted by one rank, which would take four years to regain, and some have been told they must repay their scammed money, in some cases up to Rp100 million ($10,000).

Darmawan rejected the possibility that all Immigration officers at Bali’s main port of entry were involved in the scandal and suggested prosecutors would focus on the ringleaders as the others had just “followed.”

But he acknowledged that the requirement to repay funds “is strong evidence of corruption” by the officials.

Tourist visas-on-arrival are available at Bali’s airport at $10 for a maximum seven-day stay and $25 for up to 30 days. It is alleged that the network of corrupt Immigration officials at the airport fraudulently recorded $25 payments as $10 payments, netting $15 a pop for each falsified record.

When the scandal broke in July, Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika said after a telephone conversation with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: “Clearly, we hope definite legal action will be taken in this suspected case of corruption.”

The Bali branch of the Association of Indonesian Travel Agents (Asita) called for firm action against any officials proven to be guilty and for the Immigration Office to improve its general service at Ngurah Rai.

The Bali Tourism Board (BTB) said the government should look at outsourcing visa-on-arrival services to private-sector professionals and it was “nonsense to allow ourselves to be seen as corrupt.”

In August a Bali prosecutor’s office insider said the case was a misuse of authority and therefore an act of corruption. “Even though they have returned the money prior to a criminal investigation being launched, their intent to misappropriate state funds is sufficiently proven to make a case of corruption,” he said.

The Bali Times reported last week that police are investigating another airport scam in which it is alleged full details of arriving tourists are sold for Rp50,000 ($5) a name  to international timeshare networks whose touts then track and approach tourists in their native language.

In its 2008 bribery index, the Indonesian branch of Transparency International, an anti-corruption lobby group, listed the immigration department as one of the country’s most corrupt public institutions.

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