By Benjamin Flowers
After over a month of declining requests by the Senate Special Select Committee to testify in the inquiry regarding corruption at the Immigration Department, Eric Chang and Patrick Tillett made their first appearance this week.
Tillett, former financial controller of the Belize City Council, explained that he had six of eight visa foils reported stolen from the Immigration Department’s Western Border Office because he assisted six “clients” in preparing their visa applications.
Tillett said that he charged them a fee of $4,000 each, plus the $2,000 fee that the Immigration Department charges. Tillett said that he does not operate a business for preparing visa applications; however, he would consider assisting with applications, if asked to do so. He went on to say that he hired agents to take the documents to Belmopan once he had ensured that the documents were in order.
He went on to say that an agent he had hired, one “Mr. Middleton”, whom had been introduced to him by Eric Chang, was the one who had the visa foils.
In his testimony, Chang had to answer questions on his involvement in the infamous Won Hong Kim (Citizen Kim) scandal, and his connection to the missing visa foils.
Chang also contested statements made in the media about him being the courier of Kim’s Belizean passport while he was in a Taiwanese detention facility, and statements made about him in the Auditor General’s Special Report of the Immigration and Nationality Department, about his conversation with Belize’s Ambassador to Taiwan Cherie Nisbeth.
Chang said that at the time Kim had received the Belizean passport, he was representing Belize at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting (APEC).
“I learned that from the report that the passport was issued the 9th of September and I was in the summit and represented at the time. I no see how I can be at two place at the same time,” Chang said.
He added that he was simply careless in not indicating to Ambassador Nisbeth that he was headed to the detention facility to visit Kim.
The Committee had to compel both Chang and Tillett to give their testimony, using the Legislative Assembly Powers and Privilege Act 1962, which empowers the Committee to summon civilians to testify.