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Bali: BYOB

Bali's Lawmakers and Businessmen React Strongly to Customs and Excise Raids as Island Runs Short of Grog.

(6/8/2009) Sweeping raids conducted by Customs and Excise officials (Bea Cukai) against Bali hotels and restaurants are being roundly criticized as heavy-handed and misguided by tourism officials and tourism business owners.

Bali's legislators and the affected business are labeling the custom's raids as "robberies (merampok)," asking why customs officials are unable to control the island's gateways and must resort to public raids.

Ida Bagus Gde Suryatmadja Manuaba, the Vice Chairman of the Bali House of Representatives (DPRD-Bali), told NusaBali: "If the reason (for the raids) is counterfeit customs' stickers, then customs is in violation of the law. If the products are already landed in Bali, why only now are they undertaking searches and seizures? It should be that when these alcoholic products were imported by the distributors that they were individually inspected and checked. Why is that only happening now?"

The legislator, who once worked as a bartender, questioned the legality of the customs raids, asking: "What's behind all this? That's the real question. Why are goods already landed and in circulation being chased after? Is this staged? First they release the goods and then they seize them back. Certainly the people must be asking what kind of synergy is in play in the customs department. How can illegal goods be approved for distribution? What kind of systems are in operations at Customs? This needs to be asked in light of the seizure of these items from the public marketplace."

The Bali legislator also warned of potentially dire consequences to Bali tourism of a continuing shortage of alcohol that will be the logical consequence of the current raids.

Equally damning in his criticism of the customs raids is Ketut Suania, a member of Commission II of the DPRD-Bali. Calling on customs officials to be held responsible for their actions while also labeling the seizures "robbery."

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Commission II of the DPRD, Nengah Usdek, has issued a summons to the customs to attend the House on Monday, to answer for their actions which are threatening the island's main industry of tourism.

Local business affected by the raids have emboldened themselves to speak out against the raids, asking how liquor brought via official distributors now be considered illegal.

Irmawan Pujianto Putra of the De Ja Vu Club in Kuta. "Yanto" accuses customs of "over-acting" and targeting businesses when they should be checking their network of official distributors. Saying his company has suffered "tens of millions" in Rupaih losses because of the raids, Yanto wants customs to socialize where businesses can buy alcohol with legal customs' stamps.

Customs Responds

The Bali provincial customs and excise office has responded to the onslaught of criticism, citing chapter and verse of the law that authorize field raids and confiscations.

The Chief Investigator for Bali Customs, Yanuar, told the press that the alcohol confiscated with counterfeit custom's seals is likely destined for destruction by customs officers, adding that the confiscated liquor might be returned to the restaurants and bars if the applicable fines and penalties are paid.

The raids conducted by customs has resulted in the confiscation of hundreds of cases of alcohol from leading hotels, restaurants and night spots in Bali. With diminishing booze supplies and the lack of clarification on what is legal and where to obtain it, many bars are saying they will be forced to close if a solution to the current problem is not found soon.