Helping to run up a CI$23.8M bill
Paddling in the Caribbean with a huge rubber ring and an angry case of sunburn, all that is missing is a knotted hankie on his head.
Yet this caricature of an Englishman abroad is Chief Superintendent Martin Bridger, senior Scotland Yard officer in charge of a corruption investigation in the Cayman Islands.
Extraordinary pictures of him and his colleagues enjoying the delights of the tax haven 4,800 miles from London emerged this week as an independent auditor released a scathing report on the costs of the shambolic, £5.3million inquiry.
There is no suggestion that the so- called Sunshine Squad should not have had any leisure time during their stay, financed by the Cayman government.
Yet the photos, which also show 54-year-old Bridger on his motorboat and a barefoot colleague snoozing in the police incident room, will hardly help their cause as the inquests into the fiasco continue.
The report by the Cayman auditor general revealed:
Bridger earned more than £400,000 in salary, overtime and expenses before being booted off the inquiry after 19 disastrous months. He has now left the Met.
Undercover officers flew business class between London and the islands (at a roundtrip cost of £4,800) to ‘maintain their cover as wealthy businessmen’.
More than £420,000 was handed to a firm of UK consultants, run by former Yard officers, who were brought in to give law-enforcement ‘advice’ to the Met inquiry team. Rival firms were not invited to bid for the contract.
Legal expenses amounted to £720,000 after the Met team unlawfully arrested a judge, who received a further £1million in compensation.
The scandal surrounding the Sunshine Squad was revealed by the Daily Mail in May.
But this week the controversy deepened following publication of auditor general Dan Duguay’s report, which said there were ‘significant deficiencies in the administrative management of the police investigation … and the accounting for their related costs’.
Cayman politicians have demanded Scotland Yard pick up the bill for the investigation, which is expected to have cost £8million by the time it is wound down next year.
As well as the bungled arrest of Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson, the only two people to be prosecuted over the corruption allegations have both been acquitted.
The controversy is hugely embarrassing for the Met, as the Sunshine Squad was led by officers from its ‘whiter than white’ Directorate of Professional Standards (motto: ‘integrity cannot be compromised’).
It was in September 2007 that the Yard agreed to a request from Governor Stuart Jack to send anticorruption officers to the Caymans, a British Crown dependency tax haven with a population of 54,000 and the wealthiest country in the Caribbean.
Under the agreement, the Caymans government said it would pick up the bill for the inquiry into its force, which has only 360 officers.
The inquiry was set up to look at allegations that Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis had leaked sensitive information about police operations to the editor-in-chief of a newspaper. Within months, both men were exonerated.
But the Yard team led by Bridger, formerly in charge of policing in Brixton, uncovered ‘new allegations’ about other senior officers, including Scots-born Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and another Briton, Detective Chief Superintendent John Jones, which prolonged the inquiry. The pair were suspended in March last year.
Then, that September, Bridger’s team arrested Judge Henderson on charges of misconduct in public office.
It was alleged that the judge had induced a journalist friend to carry out an illegal search of his editor’s office to identify the sender of highly-critical letters about the judiciary.
Judge Henderson – a Canadian – suffered the further indignity of having his robing room searched and computer confiscated by officers from the Yard.
Retired British High Court judge Mr Justice Cresswell, who conducted a judicial review of the arrest, found that Bridger’s team had ‘misled the courts’, made ‘deliberate misrepresentations’, and that their behaviour was ‘arbitrary and unfair’ and ‘reflected the gravest abuse of the process’.
The Met-led team – which consisted of eight officers at any time – suffered a further setback in May when it was announced there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Mr Kernohan and Mr Jones. Mr Kernohan is seeking substantial damages – believed to be in the region of several hundred thousand pounds.
All payment approvals for the officers involved in the inquiry were based on recommendations from Bridger, who for the first seven months of the investigation was a salaried employee of the Met.
When he retired from the force last year, he remained in charge of the inquiry for a further 12 months as a Cayman Islands ‘government consultant’ on a hugely-inflated salary until he was kicked off the inquiry in April this year.
He reported to Met Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who has made five visits to the Caymans.
The auditor general said: ‘We found that several decisions or lack of decisions affected the costs throughout the life of the investigation.
‘For example, the need to fly police officers in more expensive airline seats and the frequency of their travel were not issues dealt with by any administrative officer in the government.’
He added that the full costs of the Yard investigation are unlikely to be known for at least another year, but informed sources believe the final bill will top £8million.
Scotland Yard said last night : ‘We do not accept that the conclusions of the Cayman Islands’ auditor general’s report criticised the Met or the investigative team.
The criticisms contained within the report were levelled at the Strategic Oversight Group, who were based locally in the Cayman Islands and are entirely separate from the Met.
‘The Met was asked to provide a small team of detectives and police staff to assist the Cayman Islands Government anti-corruption investigation at various times since the investigation started in September 2007.
As this inquiry was on behalf of the Cayman Islands Government it was agreed that they would meet operational costs.’
There was no answer at Bridger’s £500,000 semi-detached home in Surrey. He is believed to be away with his family.