Operation Tempura ex-adviser wants redemption

The former legal adviser for the ill-fated Operation Tempura corruption investigation is now seeking to appeal his disbarment in the United Kingdom.  

Martin Polaine was disbarred following revelations that he acted as an attorney in the Cayman Islands 
– advising former chief investigator Martin Bridger’s team on the arrest of Grand Court Justice Alex Henderson – without first having been called to the bar in Cayman. 

Mr. Henderson’s arrest was later found to be unlawful by then-visiting Judge Sir Peter Cresswell and Judge Henderson was paid a $1.275 million settlement after he sued the Cayman Islands over it.  

Mr. Polaine made a full apology to the court for his actions.  

However, he told the Caymanian Compass last week that he now intends to try to get his law licence back in the UK by appealing the decision of the disciplinary tribunal that disbarred him and getting a re-hearing.  

“At the original hearing I pleaded guilty to all matters against me,” Mr. Polaine said. “I took that course because I took the view that I was bound by the findings of Sir Peter Cresswell and that it was, therefore, the honourable thing to do. It would have been inappropriate, in my view at the time, to have used the tribunal as some sort of ‘appeal court’ against Sir Peter’s ruling. 

“I recognised, even back in 2009, that the Bar Standards Board and the tribunal itself would not have the resources or, indeed, the powers, to conduct an in-depth investigation into what had taken place around Operation Tempura. It was for that reason that I made the detailed and formal complaint to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Governor, in the hope that just such an investigation would be initiated,” Mr. Polaine said. “I lost faith in the exercise … and had my hopes of a detailed enquiry dashed. I now intend to put everything in front of the Visitors (the appeal body) and, if I’m successful in getting a fresh hearing, in front of the tribunal.” 

In a telephone conversation last week, Mr. Polaine said it was his belief that he would not have to be called to the Cayman Islands bar prior to dispensing legal advice because he was working on a government contract. “If you’re actually contracted by the government … you don’t need to be called to the Cayman bar,” he said.  

The Caymanian Compass contacted Attorney General Sam Bulgin for a response to that claim twice last week, but received no reply.  

Seeking further clarity on the issue, the Compass contacted former Cayman Islands Senior Crown Counsel John Masters, who worked in Cayman between 2008 and 2012. During the first part of Mr. Master’s tenure, Operation Tempura was still active.  

Mr. Masters said he did not have any direct knowledge of Mr. Polaine’s disbarment or the pending appeal against it. However, he said the Constitution that existed at the time Tempura matters were proceeding before the courts – the Cayman Islands 1972 Constitution Order – was clear about who could act as an attorney in Cayman without being called to the bar. 

Section 16(2) of the previous Constitution states: “The powers of the attorney general … may be exercised by him in person or by officers subordinate to him acting under and in accordance with his general or special instructions.” 

For instance, lawyers that appear as Crown counsel to prosecute criminal court cases would not have to be called to the bar because they appeared on behalf of the attorney general under the 1972 Constitution Order. But Mr. Masters said the attorney general was the only such person to have that authority under the previous governing document. 

“It’s a question of whether someone appeared for the attorney general,” he said. “Just having a government contract would not allow someone to act as an attorney unless he was actually representing the attorney general at the time.” 



Mr. Polaine’s business partner, Arvinder Sambei, who runs the consultancy firm from which Mr. Polaine was hired in 2008, said that her colleague was “not appearing on behalf of the attorney general as Crown Counsel” at the time he was advising on Operation Tempura matters.  

“Martin [Polaine], through Amicus Legal Consultants Ltd [Ms Sambei’s firm name at the time] was engaged as independent legal adviser to Operation Tempura,” she said. “When Operation Tempura commenced the investigation, Martin Bridger met with the attorney general to seek legal advice on various issues re: the investigation. The attorney general took the view that the investigation team should have independent counsel as the attorney general’s chambers would only be involved once the investigation was concluded to decide on sufficiency of evidence, public interest – essentially whether the matter should proceed to prosecution.”Andre Mon Desir was appointed as the independent legal adviser to Operation Tempura in 2007, but was appointed as a judge later on and left the Cayman Islands. 

“After Andre was appointed to the bench, John Yates [former assistant commissioner of the UK Metropolitan Police] approached Martin Polaine to ask if he would be willing to act as independent legal adviser – in the same capacity as Andre – as Operation Tempura had not been able to secure an independent legal adviser in the Cayman Islands,” Ms Sambei continued. “This was done with the explicit approval of the attorney general of the Cayman Islands and the Oversight Group.” [This comment refers to the group of bureaucrats appointed to oversee Operation Tempura in Cayman]. 

“Following our meeting with Martin Bridger in London, [Amicus Legal Consultants Ltd.] agreed to act as independent legal advisers to Operation Tempura, and at the request of Martin Bridger, Martin Polaine was to be the lead lawyer. Martin Bridger was informed of our status (non-practising barristers as from end of March 2008) which was then relayed to the attorney general.”  

A copy of Ms Sambei’s statement was sent to Mr. Bulgin. He did not respond to it. 


  1. I think it is important for those in the Cayman Islands, when reading this article, to be informed of, and able to consider, the following. Once Mr MonDesir left the Island I was left without an independent legal advisor. Mr Polaine’s name had been given to me by Assistant Commissioner John Yates. I was not aware how to proceed with this matter within the Cayman Islands jurisdiction therefore I approached the Strategic Oversight Group (SOG) who agreed that Mr Polaine would be a suitable person. They wrote to the Attorney General Sam Bulgin recommending the appointment of Mr Polaine and attached Mr Polaines full and current CV. Mr Bulgin then approved the appointment in writing without question. If there was need to have Mr Polaine called to the bar in the Cayman Islands surely it was incumbent upon Mr Bulgin firstly to tell me that that was a requirement and secondly to inform me how that process should have been undertaken. He did not do so. The first time that the authority of Mr Polaine became an issue was with the arrest of Judge Henderson. By then Mr Polaine had worked with the Tempura team for approximately four months and had had meetings and written communication with members of the AG chambers. I realise that my comments raise more questions than answers. However, they perhaps provide another factual piece to the puzzle which I am determined will eventually be revelled to the Cayman Islands people.

  2. Martin Bridger’s comment here is misleading. Does he really expect us to infer that Martin Polaine’s appointment in the Cayman Islands was nothing to do with him?
    The implication here is that he did not even know Martin Polaine. Yet:
    they worked together on police corruption trials from c. 1998 2003.
    Martin Polaine went out to Belfast to work with Martin Bridger
    All of this was well before the Cayman Islands.
    Martin Polaine has already gone on record (under oath) to explain how he was recruited to the Caymans. John Yates telephoned him initially and asked if he would consider going out as legal advisor on Operation Tempura. Polaine then got a phone call from Martin Bridger asking if he would be interested. Polaine and Sambei then had coffee with Bridger and Polaine was recruited.
    And of course, we all know they both now work together at Sambei Bridger Polaine.
    Martin Bridger and Martin Polaine are both subject to my current IPCC complaints and CCRC application (which is now in its 9th year). Perhaps I shall see some justice along with the people of the Cayman Islands. My case involved illegal warrants too. You could pull the wool over the judiciary’s eyes in England, but not the Caymans. It was adjudged the gravest abuse of process in the Caymans in England they are ‘still looking into it’ 12 years on.

  3. OMG The more this dirty laundry is washed the dirtier the clothes are becoming. I wander what the wash water will look like. Very Colorful I believe.
    However, keep the machine going I have the drier ready, cause they are going to be dye run from one pants to another.

  4. Any who is interested in what went on at the Met before Operation Tempura is well advised to read a book entitled – Untouchables: Dirty cops, bent justice and racism in Scotland Yard by Sunday Times journalist Michael Gillard and TV producer Laurie Flynn. It’s just been updated and re-issued.

    You will find reference in it to several people who later became involved in the Cayman Islands investigations.

  5. Our local lawyers continue ‘fighting’ with law firms to make partner or have their west indian friends become partner, but wouldn’t a more commendable effort be to take up positions in our legal department/judiciary to have several patriotic locals being involved in theses decisions? OMG what a mess!!!

    So looking forward to all of it coming out and praying Cayman will start to see some truth about our leadership.

  6. Mr. Bridger and Mr. Polaine should both be familiar with the saying: Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

    That a senior police officer and a lawyer both failed to do any basic research into the actual laws of the Cayman Islands is evidence of their incompetence.

  7. There seems to be a lot of mud being thrown in the direction of the Attorney General but according to material already released by the Governor under FOI all the private contractors on Operation Tempura, including Mr Bridger and those featured above, were actually recruited on contract to the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs whose head at the time later became Deputy Governor.

    Are we missing something here?

  8. I feel sorry for the poor tax payers of the Cayman Isles who have had to foot the bill for a bunch of ‘dodgy geezer old bill’ from the MPS playing their dirty little games in another country.

  9. Old Hand,

    You’re probably either thinking about the song by the Eagles – Get over it.


    I turn on the tube and what do I see?
    A whole lotta people cryin’, ‘Don’t blame me’
    They point their crooked little fingers at everybody else
    Spend all their time feelin’ sorry for themselves
    Victim of this, victim of that
    Your mama’s too thin and your daddy’s too fat

    Get over it!
    Get over it!
    All this whinin’ and cryin’ and pitchin’ a fit
    Get over it! Get over it!

    You say you haven’t been the same since you had your little crash
    But you might feel better if they gave you some cash
    The more I think about it old Billy was right
    Let’s kill all the lawyers, kill ’em tonight
    You don’t wanna work, you wanna live like a king
    But the big, bad world doesn’t owe you a thing

    Get over it!
    Get over it!
    If you don’t wanna play then you might as well split
    Get over it! Get over it!


    The reference

    Old Billy was right

    refers to William Shakespeare, who expressed the same sentiment.

    Either way, I think it’s a great quote….

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