$400,000 more for Met team

Cabinet ministers said last week that they were told at least $400,000 more was needed to help fund an on-going criminal misconduct investigation within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

Investigators from the UK Metropolitan Police have been in Cayman since September 2007 looking into various accusations of wrong-doing at RCIPS and among the local judiciary. Costs for the probe total some $2.6 million through mid-November 2008.

The additional cash request was turned down by Cabinet members on Tuesday, 20 January, but was later forced through by the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the urging of Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack.

“We don’t know when the final request is going to be made,” Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said. “We do know that (the total amount is)… around $4 million. We do know that there is a need for at least $400,000 more, but that $400,000 more that is needed gives us no indication that it ends there.”

The funding request for the UK Met officers’ continuing probe was not the full amount Governor Jack sought to have approved in the 20 January Cabinet meeting. According to ministers, the majority of the money was actually needed to help negotiate a settlement for Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson.

Justice Henderson was arrested and had his home and office searched on 24 September in connection with the UK Met investigation. The search was later ruled by a visiting judge to have been illegal and an inquiry into damages was ordered.

Mr. Henderson has previously said that his damages request would be “in the low seven figures,” but both Cabinet ministers and Governor Jack have declined to discuss specific amounts citing the on-going closed door settlement negotiations. However, the Vancouver Sun reported on Saturday that the Cayman Islands Government agreed to pay Mr. Henderson just less than $2 million to settle the matter. It is assumed the amount quoted in the newspaper was Canadian dollars, which would amount to some CI$1.3 million. Efforts to confirm the settlement and the amount with Mr. Henderson’s attorneys were unsuccessful up until press time.

“The costs we are looking at…we are either approaching or just past $4 million already and that has nothing to do with any payout to settle any situation,” Mr. Tibbetts said.

Precisely where Mr. Tibbetts, and other elected officials, have arrived at their $4 million-plus figures for the total cost of the Met probe is uncertain. Governor Jack’s office has repeatedly refused requests for a detailed break down of those costs.

Cabinet ministers have refused to approve any further funding requests for the UK Met team’s investigation until Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger is removed from the case and a full briefing is provided.

Mr. Tibbetts said last week that he was aware of other matters separate to those that first brought the UK officers to Cayman had arisen, and said he did agree those should be looked into. However, he said at this point Cabinet ministers have lost confidence in Mr. Bridger and don’t have enough information about the “other” matters to make an informed decision.

“The decision has to be made, when all of that is sifted, as to what is worth pursuing,” he said. “We had also been told that the investigation would then take on another life after that has been decided on, and who would be the lead investigator, we wouldn’t know.”

Governor Jack was due to receive a final report on the other matters being investigated by the Met team at the end of January.

Acting Police Commissioner James Smith, who is now overseeing the Met team’s investigation, has briefed Cabinet and elected members of the Legislative Assembly in general terms about the on-going probe. Mr. Smith declined to discuss those briefings with the press when asked.

Education Minister Alden McLaughlin has previously said nothing new came from the briefings with Mr. Smith, who he characterised as a strong supporter of Mr. Bridger.

Mr. Bridger has not responded to numerous requests for comment about any issue related to his team’s work in recent months.