At Senate, Eric Chang Claims Limited Involvement in Visa Foils Scandal
While the Prime Minister was crunching the numbers at the Biltmore, the Senate Select investigation was taking place in the capital where insights into the immigration illegalities were coming from witnesses. Now, it took a summons carrying more legal weight than an extended invitation, but today former Belize City Deputy Mayor Eric Chang appeared with attorney Emil Arguelles, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, before the Senate Special Select Committee, apparently ready and eager to clear his name. The main allegations against him are that he was involved as a courier for the Won Hong Kim passport, and that he and Patrick Tillett were facilitated with eight missing visa foils, taken from the Western Border Immigration office. While he claimed to be there willingly, it turns out Chang did not have much to say about the meeting that he admits took place between him, Tillett and Immigration officer Mark Tench after the visa foils were taken. He was there, he said, only as an observer. Chang also denied paying five thousand dollars for these particular visas as reported by Mark Tench last week. His involvement, he said, is limited to having introduced a Chinese friend of his to Tillett when the person visited his home asking for help with visas. As a public figure at the time, he told the Senators bluntly, he could not possibly have involved himself with that kind of act, and more importantly, he would not have implicated himself in any way by speaking to the investigator from the Department the way Tench claims he did.
Eric Chang, Former Deputy Mayor, Belize City
“Let’s start with Mr. Middleton – I don’t know who is Mr. Middleton. At no time in my life [have I] ever meet with this Mr. Middleton, so I don’t know where this report says me and Mr. Middleton took the visa to me – I don’t know who is Mr. Middleton, and I never, ever did meet Mr. Middleton in my life. Secondly, it says that me and Mr. Tillett wrote a statement to confirm the transaction; I don’t know what statement and what transaction he is talking about. Because as far as I am concerned, I remember, just because I was working at City Council, and I was with Patrick for whatever reason, I don’t remember – Mr. Tillett, that day, and I wasn’t even aware of…”
Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Special Select Committee
“What day are you talking about? The day of the meeting at the Calypso?”
“Yes, correct. I was with Mr. Tillett that day; I don’t even know who Mr. Tillett was going to meet. The truth of the matter is, the only involvement I ever had in taking part of this – it was one occasion, I was at home, and one of my Chinese friends was along with me. And Mr. Tillett is a friend of mine; he came by my house at work. So we met, we talked, I introduced my friend to Mr. Tillett. And my friend said he had a family interested in coming to Belize, he’s asking me if anybody could assist in that matter. I said I didn’t know anybody. Mr. Tillett was there, he said he might know one of his friends [that] could help him apply legitimately. Therefore, that was it; the only involvement I have in this so-called visa scandal, is just [that] I introduced my friend to Mr. Tillett, that was it. I never met this Mr. Middleton; I never went to Belmopan to visit officer George Reynolds. If I did anything illegal – from the get-go, the matter get-go, I was never involved in any part – why would I go meet an Immigration officer and tell the Immigration officer, ‘I’m involved in all of this’ – I’m a politician, I was a public figure. If I do something wrong, why I would approach – why should I show my appearance to the investigating officer and say I’m a part of this, yes, I got it for my friend and this and that. That don’t make any sense, that don’t make any sense? If I’m a part of this, as a politician, a public figure, I would hide as far as I could, I would run! Why would I go meet the guy and sit down with the guy. And according to what I heard from this last hearing, Mr. Tench [did not even] know I was going there, he was not even inviting me. Why should I appear? This doesn’t make any sense at all. If I’m involved why should I go and show up and he wasn’t even inviting me?”