Met cops’ costs near $4M

The total cost for an independent investigation of alleged police corruption in the Cayman Islands is now close to $4 million, following approval of additional funding for the probe this week.

Acting Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner James Smith also informed the Cayman Islands Cabinet Tuesday that the probe’s senior investigator, ex-UK Metropolitan Police Chief Inspector Martin Bridger, would be off the case by the end of April.

The investigation, which has actually branched into two separate criminal probes known as Operation Tempura and Operation Cealt, will continue on both fronts despite Mr. Bridger’s exit, Mr. Smith said.

‘Senior Investigating Officer Bridger’s departure does not mean that these investigations are over,’ Mr. Smith said, adding that the decision to remove Mr. Bridger from command was supported by both Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack and UK Met Assistant Police Commissioner John Yates.

Mr. Bridger could not be reached for comment by press time.

‘Let us not forget that the original (Operation) Tempura investigation has succeeded in clearing the names of people who were unjustly accused of wrongdoing,’ a statement from Governor Jack read. ‘Many of us in the Cayman Islands – including myself – have acknowledged that some mistakes were made later on. But I feel sure that many of the people who came forward with information are glad that Martin Bridger came to the Cayman Islands.’

Mr. Bridger will continue assisting in Operation Tempura, until the end of April ‘to ensure continuity of the process and facilitate a handover.’ Following that, Mr. Bridger’s senior deputy investigating officer, believed to be UK Met Inspector Richard Coy, will shepherd the investigation to its conclusion.

‘Operation Tempura’s active investigations are now primarily focused on preparing for upcoming trials,’ Mr. Smith said in a prepared statement released Tuesday night.

Those trials involve criminal charges of misconduct and doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice against suspended RCIPS Deputy Commissioner Rudolph Dixon and former Cayman Islands lawmaker Lyndon Martin. The charges against each man relate to entirely separate incidents.

Mr. Martin’s trial is scheduled to begin 23 March.

The statement from Acting Commissioner Smith made no mention of on-going investigations involving former RCIPS Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and RCIPS Chief Superintendent John Jones. Both men have been under investigation since May in connection with the misconduct probe but neither has been arrested or charged.

In a statement released Wednesday morning, Governor Jack noted that ‘(Operation) Tempura investigations have wound down,’ but did not elaborate.

Elected Cabinet ministers had previously said they would not agree to fund any further work by the independent police team until Mr. Bridger was removed and ministers were given a thorough briefing about the nature of the investigations.

Operation Cealt, which involves a number of separate complaints made against the police by Cayman Islands residents since March 2008, will be placed under the direction of another senior police commander as yet unnamed. Mr. Smith has said he reviewed all of the claims residents made to officers from Mr. Bridger’s team and informed Cabinet Tuesday that he wanted to investigate certain of those allegations as a priority.

‘These actions will cost money,’ Mr. Smith said, adding that Cabinet approved his request for CI $915,810 to support both investigations. ‘I have looked very carefully to see where we can make cuts in spending that reflect the current economic circumstances and have examined staffing matters very carefully.’

He did not give the specifics of any claims made against police, nor did he state how many instances of alleged misconduct or corruption might be involved.

It appears that the work of Operation Cealt will be broader in scope, aimed at correcting operational problems within the RCIPS and taking certain corruption-proofing measures.

‘We need to look at our vetting procedure when we recruit police officers,’ Mr. Smith said. ‘We also need to look at the way we access information and intelligence because it is imperative that we be able to ensure the public confidentiality when they give us information essential for our work.’

A selection process for a new senior commander to lead Operation Cealt has been underway informally since earlier this year. Mr. Smith has said he is searching police agencies in Europe and Australia for a suitable candidate to lead the investigation.

The total cost of the Met team’s investigations, approximately $4 million, does not include a CI $1.275 million settlement given to Cayman Islands Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson following his wrongful arrest and an illegal search of his home and office by police investigators in September 2008.

The award was given after Mr. Henderson’s attorneys challenged the arrest and search in court. At least one other person arrested by the Met team, former Cayman Islands Police Inspector Burmon Scott, has indicated he will seek damages following his arrest and release last year. Attorneys for Messrs. Kernohan and Jones had requested that both officers be reinstated at RCIPS and have said that the men will be considering their legal options.

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