After being absent from his post since early September, former deputy mayor Eric Chang has been stripped of his title as Deputy Mayor and Works Councilor at the Belize City Council. The resolution was made at a caucus meeting held this morning by the Belize City Council.
He will be replaced by Councilor Bernard Pitts.
Mayor Darrell Bradley said that he had communicated with Chang and had told him to return to Belize from Taiwan to answer questions concerning what has become known as the “Penner passport scandal,” and also, had stressed to him that he was needed to carry out his duties as Deputy Mayor and Works Councilor.
Mayor Bradley said he told Chang what would happen if he did not return from Taiwan by last Friday, October 11.
Chang had accompanied the Mayor to Taiwan on an official visit at the start of September, but had stayed a while longer for what were reportedly vacation purposes. That vacation was to have concluded on October 3.
When that time came, Chang reportedly contacted the Mayor and asked for an additional two or three weeks, until October 25. However, Mayor Bradley was not about to have any of that, and as the Mayor had told 7 News via text last Friday, “We are not inclined to grant any extension to his post as Deputy and Works Councilor.”
Today, after the meeting, Bradley told KREM News that the decision to replace Councilor Chang was discussed from the last City Council meeting, at which point they had agreed to first write to Chang, which the Mayor said he did. Bradley said that he spoke to Chang on the phone also, and Chang indicated that he could not meet the deadline to return to the jurisdiction, which was last Friday, October 11.
Bradley said that right now there are “massive works” that are taking place in the city, and that Eric Chang has a critical role in their organization, and they need to “move on”. Bradley then stated that the mood of the Council was that, because he (Chang) did not return last Friday, as was indicated to him, they would have a meeting today, in which they voted unanimously to remove him as Deputy Mayor, and Bernard Pitts was unanimously selected as the new Deputy Mayor of Belize City. Pitts will serve a 1-year term, until October of next year.
Chang, however, is still an elected councilor, and the Council has to wait until after the investigation into the immigration scandal is complete to determine whether he had anything to do with the delivery of a Belizean passport to an international fugitive, Won Hong Kim.
Bradley said that Chang could not be collecting a salary and having an office without being here to perform his duties. The Mayor said, though, that they would need something substantial, such as concrete evidence, like some type of report, to remove him from his post as an elected Councilor.
The City Councilor’s name was mentioned during investigations into the issuance of a fraudulent passport for Kim, which has since been revoked, after it was discovered that Kim was attempting to claim Belizean nationality to avoid extradition from Taiwan to South Korea. He (Kim) was an advisor to a firm named SK Shipping, of which the chairman and the vice chairman – brothers Jae Tae-Won and Jae Tay-Woo – were sentenced to jail in Taiwan on September 30, 2013, after losing their appeal.
The Taiwanese court found that they had embezzled 46.7 million US dollars, and the brothers claimed that it was Won Hong Kim who misguided them.