Kiwi arrested in Bali for choc theft

By Edward Rooney

Charlotte Piho. Photo / Facebook, Supplied
Charlotte Piho. Photo / Facebook, Supplied

A New Zealand woman has been released from police custody in Indonesia, after being detained over the theft of a chocolate bar.

Well-known stand-up paddler and yoga instructor Charlotte Piho, 30, was arrested on Tuesday at Bintang minimarket in Bali's upmarket Seminyak.

She admits putting $17 worth of chocolate in her bag as she strolled through the shop, and says she intended to pay for it. The Auckland woman walked out through the checkout aisle without paying.

"For me, it was like Schapelle Corby. I didn't know what was happening. They said it doesn't matter if it's just a piece of chewing gum, it's a huge thing," said Piho.

Supermarket staff alerted security who detained Piho with the goods in her bag.

She said the shopkeeper demanded she pay $600.

Kuta police were called and took her to the police station. She was held overnight before being released after a friend paid an unknown amount of money.

Even petty thefts are jailable offences in Indonesia. But last night, Piho told the Herald on Sunday of her astonishment that she had been locked up over such a "silly little mistake".

Speaking from the Cook Islands, Charlotte's father Tuhe Piho said it had been a frightening experience.

His daughter was a yoga instructor who had gone to Bali to improve her techniques and gain a further qualifications.

"She rushed and hadn't prepared herself properly for going over there," he said. "She didn't have enough money to survive."

Piho said she had contacted him and her mother, asking for money but that had not arrived. "The shopkeeper demanded money or he would call the police."

The worried father said his daughter had done a foolish thing in a foreign country. "We do not blame Bali for what happened. She did this stupid thing and that is what happens to you in this country."

He understood Charlotte was held at the police station but allowed to sleep in an office rather than in the cells.

Under Indonsian law, suspects must be released within one day of arrest unless an investigator, prosecutor, or judge orders a detention. Once held however, it can be a complicated regime to negotiate as Indonesia's legal system was based on Dutch colonial law, Adat law and national law.

A Bali police source told the Herald on Sunday Piho had been released from custody but still had to report to the Kuta Police station, indicating the case could be taken to trial.

Piho said the incident had caused a huge heartache for him and his former wife, who is based in Brunei. "At the end of the day, we're still very proud of our daughter."

- Herald on Sunday

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