Sunday, June 21, 2015

Melbourne men pistol-whipped, Tasered and extorted in Bali

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Bali is renowned for its golden beaches and smiling locals, but a group of Melbourne men have been deeply traumatised by a violent encounter with corrupt police and private security guards on the tropical island that attracts thousands of Australians every week.

The 16 men flew to Bali for the buck's weekend of marketing consultant and former model, Mark Ipaviz, and ended up being pistol-whipped, Tasered and forced to pay a bribe of about $25,000 to avoid trumped-up charges and threats of a 10-year prison sentence.

The incident is expected to escalate concerns about the safety of Australians visiting Bali, which has already experienced a tourism backlash following the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran for drug trafficking.

The group included prominent nightclub owner Nick Russian, several former models, celebrity hairdresser Joey Scandizzo, and other mates such as Simon Phan and Dan Beckwith, and some who grew up with Mr Ipaviz on the Mornington Peninsula.

None of the men contacted by Fairfax Media were willing to talk publicly about their treatment by Balinese police or security staff. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is aware of the allegations, but also declined to comment.

Mr Ipaviz released a short statement, but refused to respond to questions.

"I hope you can appreciate that I have chosen not to comment due to my concern for other Australians and foreigners in similar situations of wrongful arrest who may have to deal with overseas authorities less responsible and less ethical than theirs in their own country.

"An article of this nature could potentially inflame such situations internationally and I would prefer not to be responsible for that," Mr Ipaviz said.

But two members of the buck's party, who asked not to be named, confirmed they stayed in the fashionable coastal town of Seminyak for five days in February.

Like many visitors to the Indonesian paradise, they soaked up the sun, hung out by the pool and drank a few beers.

On their final night on the island, February 26, they organised a dinner in a private dining room at an upmarket Seminyak restaurant.

One of Mr Ipaviz's closest friends is believed to have organised a stripper and told the group he had the approval of the resort manager.

But within minutes of the exotic dancer beginning her routine, the private dining room was stormed by private security guards brandishing guns.

One member of the buck's party was smashed over the head with a bottle, several were shocked with Taser guns, while another was pistol-whipped and threatened with death. One of the injured men required medical treatment for a laceration to the head.

The guards forced the Australians to hand over their mobile phones and called police in Kuta.

"I knew we were in trouble, when the police arrived and greeted the guards with a hug," said one of Mr Ipaviz's friends.

The 16 men and the stripper were bundled into vans and taken to a police station, according to another source, who said they were left in a holding cell until a translator arrived in the morning.

The female translator, who was also a police officer, told the men they faced serious indecency charges that carried a 10-year prison sentence in Indonesia. While Bali's population is 90 per cent Hindu, she claimed the police officers were all devout Muslims and were deeply offended by the Australians' behaviour.

"She was negotiating with two of Mark's mates and made it clear that we should not call the consulate, because that would stop any negotiations and we'd spend months in prison before any trial. She said we could pay a fine and it would all be sorted. They knew the drill and it obviously wasn't the first time they'd done it," said another source.

After more than 24 hours in custody, two men were dispatched to withdraw about 250 million Indonesian rupiah (more than $25,000) on behalf of the group from several different automatic teller machines in Kuta and Seminyak. They were chaperoned by the translator and an armed police officer.

Once the bribe was paid, the men were released but the entire group missed their return flights to Melbourne.

Most of Mr Ipaviz's friends are unlikely to return to Bali. Some are still unsettled or angered by the experience, with at least one member of the group seeking counselling.

"I get (that) when you're in a foreign country you play by their rules. What we did was pretty minor compared to what happens in Kuta every night. But the way we were treated was completely over the top. I'll never go back," a source said.

Despite the island's obvious allure, 48 Australians died while on holidays in the financial year 2013/14, while 118 fell ill or were admitted to hospital, according to the most recent figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


1 comment:

  1. Despite the island's obvious allure, 48 Australians died while on holidays in the financial year 2013/14, while 118 fell ill or were admitted to hospital, according to the most recent figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.