If you get stopped by the cops in Indonesia, make sure they’re not phonies.
Two Iranian nationals have been handed minor jail sentences after they impersonated police officers in order to steal from Chinese tourists on the resort island of Bali.
Shiraziniya Azad (53) and Shirazi Nia Hossein (41) were each sentenced to four months behind bars by Denpasar District Court on May 27. Having already spent over 110 days in detention since their arrest in February, they were released on June 4.
The pair had arrived in Bali on January 8 as tourists. They rented a white Toyota car and posed as members of Interpol looking for narcotics fugitives. Although Bali is indeed a haven for powerful drugs criminals, Interpol generally defers to Indonesian police to make any arrests, so beware if non-Indonesian “drugs officers” approach you here.
At about 8.50pm on January 30, Chinese tourist Long Zhihong (46) and his family were walking toward Kuta Central Park Hotel on Jalan Patih Jelantik after some shopping, when the two Iranians pulled up and ordered them to stop.
Azad told Zhihong they were international police officers checking for drugs. First, Zhihong’s child was ordered to approach the car and was frisked. Next, Azad searched Zhihong and removed his wallet from his back pocket, saying he needed to inspect it in the car with his partner. Moments later, he handed back the wallet. The Iranians then drove away. When Zhihong looked in his wallet, he discovered US$1,400 had been stolen.
Zhihong reported to matter to police, who promptly visited the crime scene, interviewed witnesses and obtained CCTV footage, enabling them to identify the car used by the Iranians.
Three days later, on February 2 at 10.30am, police spotted the white Toyota on Jalan Raya Tuban in Kuta. They pursued the vehicle and stopped it outside a restaurant. Three foreigners were inside the car, including Azad and Hossein.
Police said the Iranians had rented the car for US$120 per week. They were first held at Kuta Police station before being transferred to Kerobokan prison on February 22. They went on trial on April 23, accused of violating the Criminal Code’s Article 363, Section 1.4, which states that “theft committed by two or more persons together” is punishable by a maximum of seven years in jail. State prosecutors recommended a jail sentence of only five months. The two were not charged with impersonating police officers, an offense that carries a maximum two-year sentence.
Judges ended up handing down a four-month sentence, saying the Iranians were spared a heavier penalty because they were polite during the trial and had repaid the stolen money. Their lawyer opted not to appeal, so they released within four days. That’s considerably more lenient than the harsh sentences given to foreigners for drug offenses in Bali. Theft is evidently a much less serious offense than possession of narcotics.
Theft & Rape
Elsewhere in Indonesia, there has been a spate of cases involving police impersonators targeting young couples on dates in quiet locations, with the twin motives of theft and rape.
In Riau province in Sumatra, a 17-year-old youth was taking his 19-year-old girlfriend on a date on a borrowed motorcycle in Rokan Hulu regency on the night of May 18, when heavy rain prompted them to seek shelter at an automotive repair workshop. As the rain subsided, they were approached by two masked men on a motorbike. The men claimed to be police officers and accused the couple of public indecency.
Brandishing a gun, the thugs ordered the young lovebirds to hand over their mobile phones. The two were directed away from the road and into a bushy area of vacant land. The boyfriend was tied up with a jacket and ordered to remain silent if he wanted to live. The bandits then raped the girlfriend in front of him. The boyfriend shouted, only to be beaten and gagged. The two men then stole the couple’s motorbike.
On the night of June 8, the same bandits struck again, stealing the motorbike of an 18-year-old youth, who was taking his girlfriend to a night market.
Police managed to arrest the men on June 11. They now face charges of theft with violence and sexual assault.
In East Java’s Gresik regency, Fahni Fahrozi (31) and Muhammad Al Maghrobi (20) also posed as policemen in order to target young couples courting at night.
On March 1, a boyfriend and girlfriend, both aged 16, were out at about 8.30pm on a motorcycle, when they were accosted near a warehouse by Fahni and Al Maghrobi. The children denied they were on an illicit date, saying they had merely intended to visit a friend, but the friend was not at home.
Fahni and Al Maghrobi introduced themselves as members of the Surabaya Police, serving at the local Ujungpangkah Police station. They took the children to a mango plantation and threatened to take them to the police station and call their parents unless they could pay a bribe of Rp1 million.
The children could offer only Rp25,000, which the thugs rejected. Fahni produced a gun and fired it in the air to show he meant business. He threatened to rape the girlfriend if not paid Rp5 million. He then took the girlfriend to a quiet place and allegedly raped her. He returned to the boyfriend and again demanded money. The boyfriend drove off, saying he would borrow some cash from a friend. When the boyfriend did not return, the crooks drove the girlfriend to her neighbourhood and left her on the roadside.
The men then encountered the boyfriend, who was now with a friend and had managed to borrow Rp200,000. He handed over the money. The crooks made off on their motorcycle, but it skidded and fell. The boyfriend, his friend and local residents attacked Al Maghrobi, while Fahni managed to flee. The following day, Fahni surrendered to police.
Police said Fahni had used a home-assembled revolver that he purchased online. Fahni went on trial at Gresik District Court on June 19, charged with violent extortion, child sexual abuse and illegal possession of weapons. He could be jailed for up to 15 years. Al Maghrobi is being tried separately for extortion and blackmail.
When young couples try to escape parental disapproval by seeking out remote places, they may become more susceptible to being preyed on by thugs. Parents could perhaps be cooler in allowing teenagers to date without fear of being admonished.
As for encountering non-Indonesian Interpol officers in Indonesia, don’t hand anything over unless you’ve seen some ID confirmed by local police.