The Association of Indonesian National Importers (Ginsi) has accused the Finance Ministry's Directorate General of Customs and Excise of years of abuse, and pleaded with the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) to step in.
Ginsi chairman Amirudin said Tuesday the Indonesian customs office had violated government and World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations by implementing higher import charges.
Amirudin said the amount of import duties had always been higher than the transaction values submitted by importers, whom he claimed refer to the list of duties specified by existing government regulations.
Amirudin said he had tried many times over the years to negotiate with high-ranking officials from the customs and excise office.
"I tried hard, but to no avail," he said as quoted by state news agency Antara.
The higher import duties have often caused importers to be unable to complete their payments, which eventually resulted in administrative sanctions on the importers, Amirudin said.
These punitive measures, he continued, had overburdened importers, as they could vary from as low as 100 percent to as high as 1000 percent of the transaction value.
To put an end to the protracted abuse of power, Amirudin requested the BPK audit all financial transactions involving the customs and excise office.
The customs office last year generated a surplus of Rp 5.42 trillion of revenue from import duties.
"In our opinion, the extra Rp 5.42 trillion came from extortion," he said.
He added a great portion of it came from the punitive measures.
"We would like the BPK to audit the revenue surplus to reveal where *the surplus revenue* came from," he said.
Government revenue from the customs and excise office in 2008 was 15 percent higher than the target amount set in the revised 2008 state budget, with import duties reaching Rp 21.3 trillion - much higher than the Rp 15.8 trillion expected - according to an unaudited report.
Evy Suhartyanto R., spokeswoman for the Directorate General of Customs and Excise, told The Jakarta Post that the customs and excise office had abided by both government and WTO regulations.
He added the administrative sanctions had been imposed to deter "naughty" importers.
He said these were importers that often falsified the real transaction values in order to avoid paying the required import duties.
The amount of the sanctions imposed, Evy went on, depended on the importer's violation.
He said if importers deliberately reduced their actual transaction value by 100 percent, then they would be slapped with a corresponding 100 percent fine.
"The percentage that we fine them is always based on the percentage by which they falsify the transaction values," Evy said.
He added he would not mind if the BPK audited the revenue surplus, pointing out the data had not been produced by the customs office, but instead by the National Cash Services Office.