Press: Op. Tempura complaint blasts judges

Details of a complaint filed with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office last year by the former leading members of a corruption and misconduct investigation in Cayman have now surfaced in the British press.

The complaint, first reported by the Caymanian Compass in November, was initially filed by the legal advisor for the former Operation Tempura investigative team – a group of current and retired officers from the UK Metropolitan Police force that were called to Cayman in 2007 to look into allegations of police misconduct.

According to the individual who filed the complaint with the UK foreign office, disbarred attorney Martin Polaine, it centred on the behaviour of some individuals who were involved in the Operation Tempura investigation.

“I can simply say that my complaint related to sections of the judiciary, to the Attorney General’s Chambers and the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office),” Mr. Polaine said in comments sent to the Compass last November.

A report Thursday in the Financial Times of London indicated that three Cayman Islands Grand Court judges; Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, Justice Alex Henderson and Justice Sir Peter Cresswell were named in the complaint filed by Mr. Polaine. Operation Tempura’s former Chief Investigating Officer Martin Bridger later signed onto the complaint as well.

Mr. Polaine said in November that he was dropping the complaint because he had “no confidence” in the process being used to investigate the matter. However, Mr. Bridger decided to press ahead with it, according to the Cayman Islands Governor’s Office.

Neither the governor nor Mr. Polaine agreed to release a full copy of the complaint to the Compass, citing the on-going review. The Financial Times report indicated that the publication had seen a copy of the document.

According to the FT, the complaint generally focused on certain behaviours of the three judges, all of whom had some connection to Operation Tempura.

In April 2008, Chief Justice Smellie denied search warrants for the UK investigative team based on what he termed a lack of evidence; later in the same year Justice Henderson was arrested by Operation Tempura investigators – an arrest that Sir Peter – a visiting judge at the time –  ruled was wrongful and involved “the gravest abuse of process” by investigators.

The Compass is not reporting the specific allegations against each justice as set down by the Financial Times for legal reasons. On Thursday, Mr. Polaine again refused to release a copy of the complaint and instead sent the following statement:

“I am anxious that those in Cayman should be given the full picture of what took place and what brought about the end of the investigation. I have always hoped that I, and the investigators, would be judged on the facts in their entirety. Sadly, that has never happened.  There is so much more that has never been put in the public domain.”

The Cayman Islands Governor’s Office also refused again to release the complaint on Thursday. A final report on the matter was received by the office on 21 December. 

“The governor recognises the importance of bringing this matter to a conclusion as soon as possible,” a statement sent from the governor’s office Thursday read. “The governor is now in the process of actively considering it, following which he will decide what further action, if any, should be taken.” 

Another matter referred to in the complaint, according to the Financial Times, concerned a number of allegations made to the UK investigative group in Cayman that generally involved corruption and misconduct within the RCIPS. Some 70 complaints that were separate from the initial focus of Operation Tempura were evaluated by the UK officers between 2008 and 2009 here in Cayman.

In November 2009, Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines said that all evidence collected by the former Operation Tempura investigators was being kept under lock and key in a safe location.

At the time, Mr. Baines acknowledged that those in the community who brought complaints to the original UK Metropolitan Police investigating team may initially have had concerns about RCIPS handling those investigations. However, he said those concerns will be addressed by bringing in a number of experienced police detectives from foreign jurisdictions to handle the cases.

Those officers have since been brought in to form an anti-corruption unit at the police service. However, no update has ever been provided on investigations related to the information gathered by Operation Tempura. 

The governor’s office indicated Thursday that investigations were continuing into some of the 70 complaints and were mainly being handled by the police anti-corruption unit and the RCIPS cold case squad.

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  1. At the beginning of November 2009, Commissioner Baines gave assurances that the Operation Tempura investigation would produce results during the following year.

    More than a year has passed and we are still dealing with vague allegations, like the one just made by Mr Polaine, that the operation received 70 complaints. The implication of the latest claim seems to be that they all involved serious misconduct, which is nonsense.

    As most people know I worked closely with Operation Tempura for nearly eight months. During that time I learnt a lot about what was really going on and, before it gets out of hand, I think its time to blow the whistle on this myth that the investigation uncovered widespread corruption within the RCIPS but was compromised by local interference.

    Remember that as Operation Tempura floundered in the wake of the Henderson arrest, the Senior Investigating Officer told MLAs that he had evidence of serious criminal activity, including drug dealing and murder, within the RCIPS. In reality what he had nothing but rumours, by his own admission mostly sourced from my former employer who was, despite warnings to the contrary, regarded by the SIO as a reliable informant. This cosy arrangement had developed to a point where the publication concerned was freely printing editorial material designed to influence the result of an on-going criminal trial and, at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, had allowed itself to be used by the SIO and his legal adviser as a backdoor route to challenge the Cresswell rulings. This relationship is currently the subject of two complaints to the RCIPS Professional Standards Unit.

    At a more down to earth level, junior members of the team had long been expressing concern about the level of childish and malicious complaints being handled. Some of them boiled down to complainants simply disagreeing with the way officers did their jobs something that was a management issue rather a disciplinary matter. Lyndon Martins arrest was also causing concern, partly because it diverted attention from the real purpose of the operation but also because, as I later said in Court, it sent out the wrong message to people who had genuine grievances to discuss.

    The problem with this was that the very few potentially serious complaints that came in were being buried in all the rubbish. Officers were being forced to fully investigate allegations that had no merit from the beginning and, without local knowledge, were in many cases unable to separate fact from fiction. They were additionally hampered by racial stereotyping, which (without going into the more offensive aspects) lumped certain groups of people into less than trustworthy categories Burmon Scott was definitely one victim of this as probably were Rudi Dixon and Lyndon Martin. Doubts were also expressed about the capabilities of MLAs, government officials and members of the RCIPS, often based simply on their ethnic origins.

    The bottom line is that paperwork is still locked away, and the reports remain secret, because they might reveal that some serious complaints were never fully investigated while weeks were spent on dealing with trivia, revelations that would undermine the Tempura myth. One complaint that clearly never went any further involved the destruction of evidence after a member of an officers family was arrested for DUI, an offence far more serious than the trumped up charges filed against Rudi Dixon. In this case Tempura had two former RCIPS officers as witnesses but the matter never went to court.

    It is time that a decision was made to either bury Operation Tempura or to go public with it. This saga of half-truths and allegations is not achieving anything. The whole exercise is steadily destroying the publics confidence in the RCIPS, it has already demoralised the force and encouraged many capable officers to move on and the rot has to be stopped.

    It is also time for the public to see some definitive action taken in the Cayman Islands over the allegations on file of misconduct by members of the Operation Tempura team, including the criticisms made in the Cresswell report. These individuals were, after all, taking substantial amounts of money from public funds and a ruling that their actions constituted, at the very least, misconduct in public office should not be seen to go unpunished.

  2. Weve not heard the last of this, by a long shot…

    When the CoP, David Baines refused to release the findings of Operation Tempura and Cealt to the public, he left an air of heavy suspicion still surrounding this situation.

    That the Met Police personnell were always going to tell their side of the story to the British press was a no-brainer…

    Now let the real fireworks begin; whats done in the darkness must eventually come to light.

  3. Tax havens: In a sea of troubles

    By Michael Peel

    Published: January 12 2011 22:57 Last updated: January 12 2011 22:57

    Any interested posters on this forum and that should really be all posters here should Google this complete article and read it in its entirety.

    The two commentaries from an invloved party and Caycompass have given their own versions of this article and what it means.

    The article is much more detailed, complete and objective and…

    gives clear information on where this process stands now and what should happen next.

    The fact that the current Governor Duncan Taylor has taken legal advice from a QC should give readers a good idea of what is going to happen now.

    As ive stated before, this is far from over.

    Its just now getting started.