RCIPS investigation not done

Operation Cealt is underway

A separate criminal investigation surrounding unspecified complaints made against Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers will branch off from the probe being conducted by a team from the UK Metropolitan police force.

The new investigation has been given the name Operation Cealt and it is possible it could be conducted by a different team of officers than the ones who are now looking into misconduct allegations against two top RCIPS officials and former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan.

Acting Police Commissioner James Smith said the allegations brought to the Met officers’ team after March 2008 involved ‘serious allegations of criminal misconduct’ against a small number of RCIPS officers. He did not state the nature of the conduct, nor did he name any of the officers who were allegedly involved.

The acting commissioner stressed that the allegations had not been proved and still required investigating before he could discuss matters further.

Mr. Smith met with Cabinet and members of the Legislative Assembly Tuesday to review general findings of a report submitted to him by UK Met investigators in late January concerning the allegations.

He said he had not made any decisions on who would investigate those allegations, nor had he made any estimates of the potential cost of that work. Mr. Smith said law enforcement officials in Europe and Australia would be consulted in the coming weeks with an eye toward the potential hiring of a separate police team to look into the various claims.

Operation Cealt would not be handled internally by the RCIPS, Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Smith did not rule out the possibility that Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger and his team of UK officers could end up leading the separate investigation, despite claims from elected ministers that they would not agree to fund any further corruption probes headed by Mr. Bridger.

Mr. Bridger indicated to the Legislative Assembly last year that a separate team of UK officers had already begun work on the separate matters now falling under the Operation Cealt heading. He said at the time that those matters would be referred to Governor Stuart Jack for further review.

Late last year, Mr. Smith was put in charge of the special committee overseeing the UK Met investigating team’s operations. Mr. Smith said it was his decision to continue investigating the separate allegations brought to the Met team’s attention last year.

The acting commissioner said he did not ask Cabinet for any further immediate funding for Operation Cealt, largely because he had not decided on how to proceed.

‘Cabinet have said that they’re determined to ensure that corruption is rooted out, if it exists, in the RCIPS,’ Mr. Smith said.

The original investigation by UK Met officers, dubbed Operation Tempura, would continue, according to the acting commissioner. Two individuals arrested and charged in connection with the probe, Deputy Police Commissioner Rudolph Dixon and former Cayman Islands MLA Lyndon Martin are expected to face trial later this year.

RCIPS Superintendent John Jones and former Commissioner Kernohan are still under investigation in the misconduct case but have not been arrested or charged. Mr. Smith said Mr. Kernohan had not yet been interviewed by the UK Met officers’ team.

The Cayman Islands government recently had to pay out CI $1.275 million in damages following the wrongful arrest of Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson by officers from the UK Met team. A court judgment issued earlier noted officers involved had engaged in ‘the gravest abuse of process’ in that arrest and search of Mr. Henderson’s home and office and has led to sharp criticism against Mr. Bridger and his team.

Education Minister Alden McLaughlin has said that ‘no jury in the Cayman Islands would convict anyone on the testimony of Martin Bridger.’

While not making definitive statements about whether Mr. Bridger would remain in charge of Operation Tempura, Mr. Smith on Tuesday offered strong support for the embattled investigator and his team.

‘There are lots of other people who say they have absolute faith and trust in Martin Bridger; absolute faith and trust,’ he said.