Former top cop tells all about ‘Tempura’

Corruption case back with UK Metropolitan police

Former Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner Stuart Kernohan has written a statement supporting accusations that British investigators looking into corruption allegations in Cayman between 2007 and 2009 were misled by the territory’s former governor.

His statement, filed with the UK Metropolitan Police, supports claims made in a criminal complaint by retired UK Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Martin Bridger in early March. Mr. Bridger alleges that he was fundamentally misled during the course the ill-fated Operation Tempura investigation, which cost Cayman $10 million and took about two years to complete.

The seven-page statement from Mr. Kernohan supports claims he and his attorneys have previously made; that former Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack knew of, and authorised, a covert entry into the offices of Cayman Net News newspaper in September 2007, looking for evidence of a “corrupt relationship” between the newspaper’s publisher and a deputy police commissioner.

However, significant detail contained in Mr. Kernohan’s statement to the UK Met on 10 April, 2013, also alleges a level of involvement by former Governor Jack, up to and including authorisation of the use of Net News employees to perform a covert search as part of the investigation, that had not previously been revealed.

“If [the governor] had admitted that, I would’ve been gone in two weeks,” Mr. Bridger said Friday. As it turned out, the retired UK lawman ended up staying in Cayman from September 2007 to April 2009 looking into allegations of corruption in the local police service. Two people were charged in connection with the Operation Tempura probe, but no convictions were secured. None of the charges related to the entry at the newspaper offices.

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The Caymanian Compass contacted both UK officials and Cayman Islands Attorney General Sam Bulgin about Mr. Kernohan’s statement. Mr. Bulgin said he could not address the allegations made by Mr. Kernohan because the former commissioner had sued the government and the matter was still before the court.

Governor Duncan Taylor indicated through a spokesperson that his office could not comment. According to the statement sent to the UK Met, Mr. Kernohan said he had several discussions with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office representative in Miami, Florida – Larry Covington – concerning allegations that late Net News publisher Desmond Seales and RCIPS Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis had exchanged confidential police information that had somehow found its way into the hands of certain Northward prison inmates in Grand Cayman. Those allegations were investigated by a veteran team of UK Met officers, led by Mr. Bridger, and said to be completely false.

Following discussions with Mr. Covington in August 2007, Mr. Kernohan stated: “I set up a meeting with Stuart Jack and the Attorney General Sam Bulgin specifically to brief them on the allegations and to discuss the use of a witness/member of staff of the Cayman Net News to recover the evidence …”

Three such meetings were held on 27, 28 and 29 August, 2007, which are detailed by Mr. Kernohan in the letter to the UK Met. Of the first meeting, Mr. Kernohan states: “I fully briefed the governor in the presence of Samuel Bulgin” at 10.30am in the governor’s office.

“Mr. Covington’s email sent to the governor on 27 August, 2007, had covered some of the issues surrounding recovering the evidence and the use of a witness…to assist with identifying and collecting any intelligence or evidence to support the claims …”

Following that discussion on 27 August, 2007, it was agreed that Mr. Bulgin would provide some legal advice on the Net News search about making a search warrant application, which was identified as “the preferred option”.

“However, the governor agreed that we should recover the evidence and that the use of the [covert human intelligence source] to do so was authorised,” Mr. Kernohan states in his claim.

In a follow up meeting on 28 August, 2007, the attorney general informed the group that he did not consider a warrant application viable “due to a lack of evidence” at that stage.

“We all discussed the entry into the Net News to copy the crucial police documents by an employee of the Net News and agreed that was the only way forward at that time other than to do nothing until the arrival of [the special investigation team, led by Mr. Bridger],” Mr. Kernohan’s statement continued. “This action was again authorised by the governor.”

On 29 August, the third meeting held on the subject, Mr. Kernohan said he met with then-Governor Jack again to “talk through” the police action to copy the documents by the Cayman Net News employee. Mr. Bulgin again advised that, in his view, there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a search warrant of the newspaper premises.

Mr. Bulgin said Friday that he could not release his advice dated 28 and 29 August, 2007, to the Caymanian Compass, but that Mr. Kernohan was free to do so if he wished. The Compass has requested a copy of that advice from Mr. Kernohan.

Mr. Bridger said there really was no dispute by anyone that meetings of the 27, 28, and 29 August, 2007, – prior to when he arrived in Cayman – had actually taken place.

“The dispute is what was said at those meetings,” he said. During interviews as part of his investigation, Mr. Bridger said the former governor, Attorney General Bulgin and Mr. Covington all denied that authorisation to use Net News employees to affect the 3 September, 2007, search was given.

“None of them accepted that they had given any authorisation of those entries to take place,” Mr. Bridger said. “They all emphatically denied that.”


Court records 

This series of events is essentially confirmed in a ruling issued by Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie from 4 April, 2008.

There are a few key differences.

By the time the matter came before the court, Mr. Kernohan and then-RCIPS Chief Superintendent John Jones were under investigation themselves for their respective roles in the Cayman Net News investigation. They were both placed on required leave on 27 March, 2008.

Justice Smellie states in the ruling that he reviewed both pieces of legal advice presented to Mr. Kernohan and the governor by Attorney General Bulgin on 28 and 29 August, 2007, while considering a separate application for search warrants filed by Mr. Bridger’s police team against Mr. Kernohan and Mr. Jones.

“[The advice] quite properly concluded on the need for a senior police officer to carefully assess whether there was by then sufficient evidence available for the obtaining of a search warrant from the court,” Mr. Smellie wrote in the 4 April judgment. “There was, however, no reference in the advices to the possibility of [former Net News employee Lyndon] Martin or [former employee John] Evans for that matter … being enlisted as volunteers …”

In any case, the 3 September, 2007, entry into the Net News offices did not result in any charges against anyone and the chief justice ruled there was not sufficient evidence for Mr. Bridger’s investigative team to be granted search warrants against Messrs. Kernohan and Jones in connection with the ongoing investigation.

That 4 April, 2008, judgment was not publicly disclosed until the Caymanian Compass reported it on 3 October, 2008. Messrs. Kernohan and Jones were placed on leave by then-Gov
ernor Jack a week before the chief justice’s ruling on the search warrants against them was issued on 4 April, 2008.

Mr. Bridger’s investigative team would have been privy to the information disclosed within the chief justice’s warrants ruling.

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  1. In a follow up meeting on 28 August, 2007, the attorney general informed the group that he did not consider a warrant application viable due to a lack of evidence at that stage

    We all discussed the entry into the Net News to copy the crucial police documents by an employee of the Net News and agreed that was the only way forward at that time other than to do nothing until the arrival of the special investigation team, led by Mr. Bridger, Mr. Kernohan’s statement continued. This action was again authorised by the governor.

    Once the British press got their teeth into this story, any further attempts at a cover-up is futile now; the judicial review on the FOI Commissioner’s ruling might as well release the information…its ‘game over’ time.

    Under British law, once evidence has been retrieved, the method of retrievel is irrelevant, unlike U.S. law, where the method of retrieval can be legally challenged.

    The law under which this ‘covert entry’ was authorised can be used in extreme cases of ‘national security issues’ eg terrorism threats…and is very rarely used in the UK because of legal implications.

    Where there was no evidence of any ‘evidence’ in the first place, except unsubstantiated rumours, coming out of Northward Prison, of all places, the authorisation of this ‘search’ has been the key issue in this saga all along, although very rarely mentioned in the press a such, or by any of the key parties…until now, that is.

    My assertions has been, all along, that this search was really conducted to retrieve letters that had been published by CNN that proved embarrassing to Cayman’s judiciary and that the ‘police corruption’ issue was a secondary one.

    That absolutely no evidence of any nature was found in this authorised ‘search’ of a private business premises was what has led to this entire dispicable and disgraceful series of events.

    And the story isn’t over yet, by an means.

  2. It has become apparent that we need an independent body to investigate corruption in the Cayman Islands. This task should not be undertaken by the RCIPS, the Office of the Governor or the FCO so that the outcome of any investigations are not subject claims of political interference.

  3. LOL, how the twists and turns continue as Tempura refuses to quietly lie down and die.

    It will be interesting to see where this goes. I cannot see the Met raiding the FCO or arresting Stuart Jack on the basis of what is little more than another of Bridger’s infamous fishing exercises. In fact I think what will happen is that this will all be ruled to be matters outside the Met’s jurisdiction as defined under the terms of the Police Act.

  4. Just to put the record straight on this. Today (23 April) a statement has been lodged with a senior Met officer refuting some of Mr Bridger’s claims. One in particular relates to a false allegation that I somehow bypassed the Net News alarm system before entering the office on 3 Sept 2007.

    I really fail to see what this little stunt is intended to achieve because the Met were already fully engaged in the investigation over the period 30 August to 4 September 2007 when the two searches took place. If there was wrong-doing they are equally guilty.

    And Firery for the record the object of the exercise was to determine the presence or otherwise of a box file containing documents. The letters long ago became a side issue because we now know beyond any reasonable doubt that the suspicions at the time about their source were correct. The letters were submitted by a member of Net News management, there were no originals.

  5. Of course this will never go away as long as there remain one red cent to be squeezed out of the Cayman Islands. Corrective action has already been completed by the judge on behalf of Cayman to stop the unauthorized process. Cayman stand obligated to pay for mistakes of its elected officials, but should not be obligated to or held responsible for action of personnel appointed by the UK or those under that appointee charge. One can delegate authority but you can never delegate responsibility.

    How fair would it be for someone to counder up an investigation, act outside the law, and then make a claim for miscarriage of justice. No-one can order you to break the law, if such an order is made, and you know it to be unlawful, it is your sworn duty to resist that order and report it up the chain of command.

  6. Mr Evans

    What you now report and say to the police is of course a matter for you. That said I am pleased that I have copies of the original statements you made to the Tempura Investigation which at the appropriate time I will make available to the Metropolitan police. For my part I am satisfied for them to make judgements as to any differences there may be in the accounts you are now promoting and those accounts you gave at the time.

  7. Mr Bridger that’s a useful statement because it raises some issues under the UK’s Data Protection Act, which I will be taking up with the Information Commissioner.

    Up until now I had only suspected that you had kept copies of my statements, your comments just confirmed it and for that I am very grateful.

  8. Hmmmm, unverified copies of statements taken from the chain of evidence that have been out of any kind of controlled custody for 5-6 years aren’t exactly what most police forces or the courts regard as viable proof of anything except that the person presenting them has a rather loose regard for confidentiality.

    You might want to tread carefully here Mr Bridger because my first question to you would be how did you come by these?