Courts | IPIM: Rita Santos called to defend Jackson Chang’s ‘honest’ character

Rita Santos

Now drawing to a close, the case at the Court of First Instance involving corruption allegations against several former high-ranked officials from the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM), has heard several witnesses favorable to some of those involved.
On trial, the witnesses attested to the character of the defendants, namely of the former president of IPIM, Jackson Chang, and the former IPIM’s Residency Application and Legal Affairs Division chief, Miguel Ian Iat Chun.
Highlighting the human qualities of Chang was the current president of the general assembly of the Macau Civil Servant’s Association, Rita Botelho dos Santos. The former deputy secretary-general of the permanent secretariat of Forum for Economic and Trade Co-operation between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries – Macau (Forum Macau) said she knew Chang since the time she commenced work at the Forum Macau, in 2003, when the organization had strong links to IPIM, including operating within the same office building.
Santos said Chang was “a very responsible and honest person,” noting that he was very diligent in preventing any unnecessary expenses in relation to events organized by IPIM, or in which IPIM participated.
Rejecting any suggestion that Chang was part of a criminal organization, Santos noted the many years of constant work and contacts Chang had, both locally and abroad, in the promotion of Macau for businesspeople from China as well as from the Portuguese-speaking countries. In that position, according to Santos, “we do all we can to provide concise and clear information [to the entrepreneurs] about the opportunities existing in Macau and its role as a platform.”
“We have the goal of providing confidence so they can invest,” added Santos.
Questioned by Álvaro Rodrigues, the lawyer representing Chang, as to whether she ever saw or was aware of any special benefits granted by Chang to any particular person or organization, Santos responded, “I never saw him benefiting anyone in particular. All the work done was aiming to benefit all the entrepreneurs in general.”
Furthermore, according to Santos, Chang was also known for being a “rule-abiding person as well as a strict follower of instructions from […] immediate superiors.”
The defense also called an old friend of Chang to testify, a man who met him during his secondary school years.
The man, who is said to work in Macau in the field of exhibitions and conventions, also admitted to being a good friend of the family, describing Chang as a man without excessive ambitions.
“I don’t believe he could do anything illegal to achieve success,” the witness said, noting that Chang and his family lived without many concerns or financial problems that would justify the kind of unlawful acts for which he is being tried.
In a humorous remark, the witness also advanced that he was “mad at Chang” because for over 10 years he had bidded for several IPIM tenders in the conventions and exhibitions field and he never won any of them, adding that despite being close friends for over 40 years, Chang never gives any help or benefit to any of the friend’s companies.
The witness noted that Chang was at the top of his career and received a good wage.
“I don’t think that he needed money. He did not need to get into trouble [because of that],” the witness said.
Also presenting several witnesses to attest to the good character and personality was the lawyer of the second defendant, Miguel Ian.
Through three different testimonies, Ian’s defense tried to prove that the former IPIM chief had a reputation of assisting people without expecting any compensation.
In the court, the witnesses called by lawyer Jorge Ho explained how on previous occasions, Ian helped a friend of his wife to write a letter to the Labour Affairs Bureau regarding the loss of a quota for a non-resident worker, as well as helping a construction worker who was working for him in home renovation to apply for Social Housing at the Housing Bureau after several failed attempts over many years.
Ian provided assistance through helping the people understand the requirements and how to apply or justify their case to the relevant bureaus. In both cases, after Ian’s intervention, the cases were successfully solved without Ian requesting any compensation, they said.
The last of the group of three favorable testimonies regarding Ian came from former lawmaker Ung Choi Kun, who was said to have known Ian since 1995, before the elections for the Legislative Assembly.
Ung, a well-connected businessman in the real estate sector, also said in court that he had sought help from Ian more than once concerning requests regarding residency requirements of his friends.
“He gave us opinions, in a very clear and responsible way,” Ung said in the courtroom, noting that as a former lawmaker he is well aware of the duties and responsibilities of civil servants, remarking that the information provided by Ian was only given from the perspective of clarifying how the process worked and what kind of documents they should present, not providing any details that could be considered illegal or favoring such applicants.
The hearing of defense witnesses from the remaining defendants will continue today, with defense lawyers and prosecutors hinting that the court could conclude this task by the end of the day. The next and final stage will be dedicated to the closing statements from the accusation and defense.

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