Tempura crew fighting crime in private practice

Firm, however, kept out of 2009 Cayman Islands review

A UK consulting firm led by a disbarred lawyer who assisted in Cayman’s now-infamous Operation Tempura investigation participated in an anti-corruption review of the Cayman Islands Government in early 2008, the Caymanian Compass has learned.

However, Amicus Legal Consultants, now doing business as Sambei, Bridger and Polaine, did not participate in a second stage of that review, which was commissioned in mid-2009 after problems began to arise with Operation Tempura in the Cayman Islands.

The Amicus website states the firm has expertise in, among other things, anti-corruption, investigative/prosecutorial methodologies, international human rights law and asset recovery.

“At SBP we understand that the best defence against crime is a well trained and co-ordinated investigative and prosecutorial capacity that is structured so that it is always responsive to the challenges that can arise almost every day,” the website claims.

Problems with the Tempura investigation led to the removal of former Chief Investigating Officer Martin Bridger as head of the Tempura probe, and eventually caused Martin Polaine of Amicus to be disbarred and to issue a formal apology to Cayman Islands Grand Court judge Alexander Henderson, who was arrested in 2008 as part of the Tempura investigation.

A statement from the UK Department for International Development sent to the Caymanian Compass indicated that Amicus was contracted by that department to “review a number of British Overseas Territories’ compliance with anti-corruption conventions in early 2008”.

Those territories included the UK’s three Crown dependencies as well as overseas territories Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The second follow-up phase of that review took place in mid-2009 and involved updates of United Nations anti-corruption compliance for the Crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, as well as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

However, the 2009 review was conducted by another entity – the International Centre for Asset Recovery – a Switzerland-based agency that assists law enforcement with asset recovery and anti-corruption matters.

“It was agreed in 2009 that the second phase of the review of the Cayman Islands would be conducted by the ICAR in Basel to avoid any perception of conflict of interest, given that Mr. Polaine had become involved in Operation Tempura in August 2008,” said Department for International Development press officer Bobby Stansfield.

Operation Tempura began in September 2007 in Cayman under the direction of Mr. Bridger and the supervision of the UK Metropolitan Police Force following allegations that a local newspaper publisher and a high-ranking police official were involved in “a corruption relationship”. Mr. Bridger later said those allegations were false.

At the time the first stage of the UK government’s anti-corruption review was being conducted, Operation Tempura largely remained shrouded in secrecy. It was not revealed that UK-based investigators were even in Cayman until a 27 March, 2008, press conference when Tempura members went public and three top Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers were placed on leave. It was later revealed that the decision to go public was made after the local girlfriend of one of the Tempura investigators had learned his true identity and went to a Cayman Islands newspaper with the story.

Mr. Bridger had not joined Amicus Legal Consultants at that time and no one from Amicus was in Cayman working on the investigation, UK officials said.

“At no point was Mr. Polaine involved in both the [anti-corruption] review and Operation Tempura at the same time,” Mr. Stansfield said. “His disbarment happened after the conclusion of all work by Amicus for [the Department for International Development].”

The Amicus Legal Consultants firm was appointed for the initial anti-corruption review in 2008 because of their “strong experience in conducting country evaluations for international bodies”.

UK officials said the governor’s office was aware of the UK reviews done on behalf of the Department for International Development in 2008 and 2009. They were unaware of any involvement in the matter by elected members of Cayman’s Legislative Assembly.

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1 COMMENT

  1. What is interesting about this is that the extent of the review only came to light in a reply to an FoI request I filed after seeing the contract listed on the Amicus/SBP website.

    The initial DfID response credited Amicus/SBP with all the work. It read –
    —————————————————–
    Thank you for your enquiry about Sambei, Bridger and Polaine (formerly known as Amicus Legal Consultants) and their work for DFID assessing Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies’ compliance with anti-corruption conventions.

    Apologies for the time it has taken us to get back to you.

    There were two phases to this work. The first phase took place in early 2008 and involved the following assessments:

    – Crown Dependencies – Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man. Evaluations assessed compliance with the Council of Europe Conventions on Corruption, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (the OECD Convention) and the United Nations Convention against Corruption (the UN Convention).

    – Overseas Territories – Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands. Evaluations assessed compliance with the OECD and UN Conventions.

    The second phase took place in mid-2009 and involved updates of compliance with the OECD and UN conventions for the three Crown Dependencies, Bermuda and Cayman Islands, following progress since the 2008 reports.
    ——————————————————
    You will note that there is no mention of Amicus/SBP passing phase two on to any other organisation – that information was only released by a DfID press officer after details of the contract were first made public in the Cayman Islands.

    I think the fundamental questions that remain unanswered are why a study like this was farmed out to a private company in the UK (the fact that it was Amicus/SBP is largely irrelevant), who has been supplied with copies of the two reports and why the results were kept secret from the people of the Cayman Islands?

    In particular the secrecy aspect, which effectively denies the Cayman Islands the right to defend themselves from any criticism, must cause serious concerns about the commitment of the Governor and the FCO to policies of openness and transparency.

    The fact that what was then Amicus had very little expertise in Cayman Islands law is best illustrated by what happened in September 2008, just a few months after phase one of the review was undertaken, and that also raises questions, which I have raised with my MP, about how contracts for work like this are awarded and the validity of the results.

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