Some Op Tempura charges ‘not justified’

Local police, UK Met haggle over costs

Documents released under a United Kingdom Freedom of Information request reveal that, in the view of the Cayman Islands government, some charges accumulated by the UK Metropolitan Police during the ill-fated Operation Tempura investigation could not be reconciled with proper receipts or invoices.  

It’s unclear from documents released under the FOI request exactly how much in “final payments” Cayman ended up sending to the UK, but the amount was easily hundreds of thousands of British pounds.  

The issue arose in December 2009, when an unnamed employee of the RCIPS e-mailed the Met police regarding the deployment of the organisation’s officers to Cayman to assist in the misconduct and corruption investigation that became known as Operation Tempura.  

For the period between April and September 2009, the RCIPS employee stated that no supporting documentation existed for travel charges, mobile phone charges or Barclaycard expenses.  

“I require the supporting documentation in the event of an audit!” the RCIPS employee wrote.  

What followed over the next several months was a series of e-mails where UK Met officials demanded payment of £525,325.41 in “overdue debts” from the Cayman Islands government.  

Those charges included £188,005.40 for the UK Met’s deployment to Cayman between July-September 2008, £125,137.04 for deployment of those officers between October-December 2008, the 
deployment of Met officers here between January-March 2009 was charged £105,569.27, and a total of £104,613.70 spent on the deployment between April-September 2009.  

UK Met officials warned the Cayman Islands government that the receipts were overdue by several months as of early 2010, but local officials noted they still could not reconcile some of the charges with receipts provided.  

“With the publicity Operation Tempura has achieved here in Cayman, it is safe to assume internal audit will look closely at all expenses associated with Operation Tempura,” the unnamed RCIPS employee wrote to UK Met officials in February 2010.  

By April 2010, an agreement had been reached to pay £246,023.48 of the expenses owed for salary and overtime of UK Met officers working in Cayman on behalf of Operation Tempura.  

However, according to a 6 April, 2010, e-mail, the remaining costs including officers’ travel, expenses and phone bills could not be “rationalised”.  

“The delay in progressing the [payment] authorisation has to do with the accountants in the RCIPS and Portfolio [of Internal and External Affairs] being unable to justify or rationalise claims connected to the travel/expenses and covert phones from the information provided,” the 6 April e-mail stated.  

By the next month, May 2010, a “settlement figure” for the remaining costs of £206,000 was reached, apparently after some telephone negotiations. UK Met officials agreed to give the Cayman Islands government a “credit” of some £19,000 for credit card bills during the covert stages of the Operation Tempura investigation for which there was an “absence of supporting documentation”.  

According to records provided, it appears Cayman spent more than £450,000 (CI$591,000 at current exchange rates) to settle up all remaining UK Met costs related to Operation Tempura. 

1 COMMENT

  1. These figures, which under UK FOI rules were due to be released at the beginning of September, were finally supplied last Friday after having spent five weeks being vetted by senior Met management.

    My sources in the UK are very surprised that the Met wrote off GBP19,492 in the circumstances described above without taking any follow up action. This total was accumulated during Tempura’s covert phase from mid-September 2007 to March 2008 when the investigation was being conducted by a small team of very experienced Met officers all of whom should have been fully aware of the need to keep proper records. In fact they were posing as visiting businessmen so keeping receipts would have been a normal part of that cover. Bearing in mind that the SIO at the time has a reputation as a meticulous record keeper it would be interesting to find out where this money went and why no proper records were kept?

    Even more interesting are the continuing charges for Met involvement during the period when the operation was being run by four private investigators and staff from BGP. More than GBP110,000 was billed to CIG by the Met as pay and overtime during June and July 2008 alone. Yet at the same time the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs handed over around GBP85,000 to the now-retired Senior Investigating officer and his three colleagues plus a still undetermined amount to BGP for their services.

    Also in July 2008 the Met billed CIG for over GBP12,000 to cover mobile phone calls, this was by far the highest total in that category and represents roughly three times the normal average monthly cost. Where did it all go?

    The bills from the Met for pay and overtime continued through August 2008 to March 2009, totalling roughly GBP175,000 plus a further GBP125,000 in expenses including another GBP24,000 in mobile phone charges. However, CIG was again also paying for the services of the four ex-Met investigators and BGP. Bearing in mind the decidedly unimpressive results of the whole investigation this begs two questions – how many people were involved and why? If these figures are correct they suggest the presence of four to five Met officers, four private investigators (three after September 2008) plus an unspecified number of BGP staff over a period of some eight months, all this being paid for by the people of the Cayman Islands but what were they doing?

    Eventually, in April 2009 the invoicing from the Met started to drop off and, apart from a GBP10,889 Barclaycard bill and over GBP8,000 in travel expense that month, settled down to average around GBP14,000 a month until Met involvement officially ceased in September 2009 – two years and one month after the investigation was launched.

    You can easily detect by the comments quoted in this story the impact of Dan Duguay’s 2009 audit on those dealing with this at RCIPS. It would nice to think that his work could now, as was clearly being anticipated, be completed and the OAG might find the resources to re-visit the audit so we can find out where the money went.

    Incidentally, the total invoiced by the Met over 18 months appears to be GBP523,325 (roughly CI680,000) of which CIG paid all but the GBP19,492 the Met wrote off.

  2. These prefabricated trumped up operations by the UK are only designed to ‘SUCK mega bucks out of the Cayman Islands government.The UK could care a hill of beans about corruption in our government nor our RCIP.

    THEY HAVE A NERVE!

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