A former witness in the trials that sprang from the ill-fated Operation Tempura corruption probe said this week that British authorities were “directly involved” in the investigation prior to the 3 September, 2007, search of a local newspaper publisher’s office.
Former Cayman Net News journalist John Evans also said that a criminal complaint filed with the UK Metropolitan Police force last month over the case had given some “false impressions”. That complaint was filed by former Operation Tempura senior investigating officer Martin Bridger.
“Amongst the material in my possession are copies of emails and memos that show direct involvement of the Metropolitan Police Service during the period 30 August, 2007, to 4 September, 2007,” Mr. Evans wrote to the UK Met police. “This being the period over which two searches of [Net News publisher] Desmond Seales’ office took place.”
According to a letter marked ‘restricted’, dated 30 August, 2007, and sent by Leigh Turner, the director of the British Overseas Territories for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office: “I am writing to request your help with an investigation in the Cayman Islands.”
That letter was sent to then-UK Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair. It was also sent four days before Mr. Evans’ and former Net News employee Lyndon Martin attempted to enter Mr. Seales’ office the second time on 3 September, 2007. Investigators from what became known as the ‘UK Met team’ didn’t arrive in Cayman until early September 2007, according to representatives of Stuart Kernohan – the former Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner who was eventually deposed over the Tempura probe.
Moreover, the (former) Cayman Islands Observer on Sunday has previously reported that, according to transcripts from the Old Bailey in London, former Operation Tempura legal adviser Martin Polaine was initially recruited by former UK Met Assistant Chief Commissioner John Yates. Mr. Polaine was later disbarred in the UK over the advice he gave on the Tempura case without having a licence to practice law in the Cayman Islands.
“What I do not understand is how Bridger thinks the Met can investigate this.” Mr. Evans said.
In a statement to the Caymanian Compass Wednesday, Mr. Bridger responded to Mr. Evans’ statements.
“I am a little surprised that Mr. Evans now appears to be taking a contrary view to what I thought our common goal was, namely to establish the truth as to what occurred in Operation Tempura,” Mr. Bridger said.
“To clarify the position, prior to my arrival in the Cayman Islands on 10 September, 2007, I personally, as the lead investigator, had no knowledge as to the circumstances of the night-time entry into Cayman Net News on 3 September, 2007. The first time that Detective Inspector Simon Ashwin, Detective Constable Steve Ahmet, and I became aware of the circumstances of the entry into Cayman Net News was when we interviewed John Evans as a witness.
“Irrespective of the legality or not of the entry on 3 September, my team and I, Assistant Commissioner John Yates, the Cayman Islands Oversight group (which was chaired by Donovan Ebanks), and the independent legal advice all proceeded with the investigation that Kernohan and Jones had in respect of the entry on the 3rd September gone on a “frolic of their own”. None of those mentioned above, to my knowledge, was ever told that the governor and others were involved in authorising the entry.”
Was there a crime?
Mr. Evans said Mr. Bridger’s criminal complaint that was filed with the Met in March appears to be “grossly defamatory” with regard to the retired journalist’s role in the 3 September, 2007, entry into the Net News publisher’s office.
“In Mr. Bridger’s statement [to the UK Met on 4 March, 2013] he refers to the 3 September, 2007, search I conducted under the accepted terms of [the UK Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act,” Mr. Evans wrote. “He states that I ‘bypassed the alarm’ then ‘entered the building’. That version of events is completely untrue.
“It was made clear that I entered the building through the front entrance using a key then simply punched the three-digit security code into the alarm system to shut it down. Although I am not named in the [criminal complaint to the UK Met], it is so easy to attach me to these actions that I regard Mr. Bridger’s statement as grossly defamatory and a very crude attempt to create an impression of criminal conduct where none actually existed.”
In a comment posted on the Caymanian Compass website last Tuesday, Mr. Bridger responded to Mr. Evans’ claims: “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 judgments as to any differences there may be in the accounts you are now promoting and those accounts you gave at the time.”
Mr. Bridger was asked by the Compass in 2008 about whether the 3 September, 2007, entry into Mr. Seales’ office was considered to be illegal.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act or ‘RIPA,’ as it is known in the UK, allows police forces to employ clandestine techniques, for example wiretapping or using secret informants, in the course of certain investigations. However, the use of those powers must be approved by government after officials are satisfied that their use is necessary.
No similar legislation exists in the Cayman Islands, which is a British Overseas Territory.
Mr. Evans has never been charged with any crime or even arrested on suspicion of any crime related to the events of 3 September, 2007, and he has emphatically denied any crime was committed.
“This is (a) deliberate, and completely malicious, attack on my integrity,” Mr. Evans said in a 2008 interview with the Compass. “It is very important to note that I never indicated that removing documents was an option and all entry to the building (on 3 September) was completed in a normal manner – no lock picks or interfering with alarms. Similarly, entry to (Mr. Seales’) office was affected through a wide open door.”
Mr. Bridger said back in 2008 during an interview with the Compass that he had no intention of arresting Mr. Evans or pursuing charges against him in relation to the 3 September, 2007, matter, and said that decision was made after seeking legal advice regarding certain aspects of the 3 September entry into Mr. Seales’ office. “There (are) clearly issues between (Mr. Evans) and Mr. Seales; that’s a matter between those two individuals,” Mr. Bridger said.
In his statement released to the Compass last week, Mr. Bridger said: “If it is the case that the entry was authorised by the governor, then in all probability neither Mr. Kernohan nor Mr. Jones would have been suspended and the investigation would have been finished in a couple of weeks. The investigation of Kernohan and Jones was unwarranted, and my investigation was not necessary and most of the events that occurred in 2008 would not have happened.
“I believe that it is in the interests of everyone that the truth is established. It is because of our joint quest for the truth to be established that Mr. Kernohan, Mr. Jones and I have joined together in reporting the matter to the Metropolitan police for investigation.”