Things fall apart for Met team

It may have been a sign of things to come in 2009 when Auditor General Dan Duguay announced in January that he was going to review costs for on-going investigations into alleged misconduct and corruption within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

Things just sort of fell apart after that for the investigative team conducting the probe that had become known as Operation Tempura.

In early February, a $1.275 million cheque was given to Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson, following his wrongful arrest and what was determined to be a wrongful search of the judge’s home and office in September 2008.

Mr. Henderson was under investigation for alleged misconduct in connection with Operation Tempura but his lawyers successfully argued that the judge had been arrested for what was essentially a non-arrestable offence in the Cayman Islands.

Ramon Alberga, QC, slammed the UK Metropolitan Police investigating team during court proceedings for their ‘inept conduct’.

About a week after the investigation took a verbal drubbing in court, then-Acting Police Commissioner James Smith announced that a separate criminal probe, under a separate code name – Operation Cealt – had begun based on claims brought against the RCIPS by members of the public.

Mr. Smith said those allegations brought to the Met team’s attention in 2008 involved ‘serious allegations of criminal misconduct’ and would be dealt with expeditiously.

A month later, Mr. Smith told Cabinet members that Operation Tempura’s senior investigator, Martin Bridger, would be removed from the case by the end of April.

Following Judge Henderson’s arrest in 2008, Mr. Bridger had been subjected to increasing public and legal criticism regarding his team’s actions.

‘Senior Investigating Officer Bridger’s departure does not mean that these investigations are over,’ Mr. Smith said at the time, 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. Smith also informed lawmakers that costs related to the corruption probe had reached close to $4 million, a figure that was to go up to $6.1 million in the following months.

‘I hope there is an end in sight to (Operation) Tempura…around August, which is when one of the trials is scheduled to take place,’ Mr. Smith told Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee.

The end was closer on 1 May, when government announced it would not bring charges against former RCIPS Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and Chief Superintendent John Jones in the probe.

‘It is unbelievable that it took 13 months to reach this conclusion, which was blatantly obvious from the outset,’ Mr. Kernohan said of the decision. He and Mr. Jones were ‘temporarily’ removed from office in March 2008.

By the end of the month, Mr. Kernohan had sued the Cayman Islands government. Mr. Jones was returned to his old job later in the year.

As the year moved ahead, trials for the last two men charged in connection with the Operation Tempura investigation were held. Both were cleared on all charges.

On 10 September, former Cayman Islands MLA Lyndon Martin was found not guilty by a jury on charges of falsely accusing a person of a crime and doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice.

Less than a month later, suspended Deputy Police Commissioner Rudi Dixon was found not guilty of misconduct in a public office and of doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice. Mr. Dixon still faces disciplinary hearings within the RCIPS.

The auditor general completed his review in October, finding that Mr. Bridger had been paid some $27,000 per month in salary and expenses between May 2008 and April 2009 – more than any public official in the Cayman Islands including the governor.

The audit noted several areas of concern where government records and procedures related to the Tempura investigation were lacking.

Following the audit, lawmakers debated whether to sue the United Kingdom to recover costs from the Operation Tempura investigation. However, that motion was defeated by the ruling government.

In a final blow for the remnants of Operation Tempura, the former legal adviser for the investigative team was disbarred in the UK.

Mr. Bridger

Mr. Duguay

Mr. Smith

Mr. Martin

Mr. Dixon