Thursday, 09 March 2017
After almost 3 and a half years of unconcerned silence, Eric Chang, former UDP Deputy Mayor, current UDP insider and the man suspected to be major part of the Won Hong Kim passport scandal, finally presented himself to testify in the Senate Hearings on Immigration. Chang has enjoyed the protection of his political bosses where prosecution is concerned, though he has been directly implicated in multiple criminal offences.
So did he tell all, come clean? Actually, Chang chose to suffer from a rare form of selective amnesia which we will call Changnesia, in his honour. He couldn’t remember a number of important details. His name was called in 2 huge immigration scandals which he says he is completely innocent of and to hear him tell it from his perspective, he was simply too trusting, which landed him in bad situations.
So, how does he explain his close proximity to the South Korean Fugitive Won Hong Kim, and what appears to be his attempts to get this man out of a Taiwanese detention center? First of all, he could not deny that he tried to visit Citizen Kim back in September 2013. Cherie Nisbet, Belize’s Ambassador to Taiwan sent an official email to the Government of Belize confirming that, and it was included in the Auditor-General’s report.
Chang testified that while in Taiwan he was informed by Alejandro Young, a friend and charge d’ affaires of the Honduras embassy, that a Belizean was detained by Taiwan. That’s when he told the Senate committee an incredible story; he said that he didn’t know that this person was a South Korean fugitive. He said he thought that he was going to visit a Belizean who got caught up with immigration issues, and that he was just trying to help like he always does when he is at home. From his perspective, he was trying to do a good thing…
He told the Senate Select Committee that he had a lengthy conversation with a Taiwanese Immigration Officer, and when he was given all the details about this man, he backed off and left. So, he said that he was no mastermind trying to get Won Hong Kim freed. In his own words, “I was misled by Mr. Young…I think I was being - I don't want to use the word set up, but I think I was being used.”
The Senate immediately challenged the many holes in his story, that no veteran diplomat would attempt to seek him out to help a Belizean in a sensitive case like this one because he had no official diplomatic credentials to be able to offer any real assistance. He insisted Mr. Young, who he claims misled him, called on him first, asking for him to intervene. He was challenged again with his reasons for not getting Ambassador Nisbet to handle the case, he said, “Maybe it was my neglect, I think that was something small, that [it] was something small that I don't have to tell the ambassador right away, maybe I go and visit the person first and find out what is the matter then I call.”
Senator Eamon Courtenay, a veteran diplomat, challenged him that he was being untruthful, and Chang insisted that the Honduran diplomat did call him asking that he go help Won Hong Kim, who he swears he didn’t know was a fugitive. When he was asked if he participated in any way to get Won Hong Kim that fraudulent passport and nationality, he asserted in the strongest terms that he had no involvement, and that he was innocent.
Under oath, Chang also confirmed that he was friendly with Elvin Penner, the disgraced Minister who worked to circumvent all the checks and balances at the Department to get Won Hong Kim his passport. Senator Hon. Mark Lizarraga asked, “Did you have a relationship with Minister Elvin Penner?” Eric Chang, answered, “Yes, [we] were friends.”
But Chang is also in hot water for 8 stolen visa foils which he allegedly purchased. Of course, he denied any connection to them. He said that everybody who has pointed fingers at him is lying - another instance where he is a victim. He said that he didn’t buy any visas for $5,000 and he only went with Patrick Tillett to meet with 3 Immigration Officers at the Calypso Restaurant because Tillett was his friend, and Tillett asked him to be there. He said that the conversation they were having did not concern him, and so he doesn’t really remember what they were discussing.
It is clear to all Belizeans, and patently clear to all senators who heard Chang’s testimony, that his testimony was completely bogus. There is little doubt that he will continue to be protected from prosecution by the UDP, but in the Court of public opinion, Chang is guilty as hell and should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for a variety of criminal offences.