Witness: Met involved early in Tempura

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.”  

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Mr Evans should release the full transcript of the letter dated 30th August 2007 so that we can see, perhaps, what Leigh Turner was asking Sir Ian Blair to do and why.

    As the matter was passed on to Larry Covington (part of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office) by Stuart Kernohan on 17th August and Stuart Kernohan recognised the need for independence to ensure that any enquiry was seen as being credible and comprehensive I would suggest that the letter Mr Evans has a copy of is no more than a letter asking for Sir Ian Blair to set up that independent enquiry. This is supported by Stuart Kernohan’s comment in his statement – Due to the seniority of Anthony Ennis’s position as a Deputy Commissioner I decided to refer it to an outside force for the enquiry. Where else would he go but the Metropolitan Police who have been the force who have routinely carried out policing work on behalf of the UK Government outside the UK where necessary.

    My take on this is that Stuart Kernohan knew fine well that had he proceeded with an internal enquiry into a very senior local police officer that enquiry would have been at best seen as no more than a personal vendetta at the top of the RCIPS (It is well known there was no love lost and certainly no respect between the two) and, at worse, would have been thwarted. Stuart Kernohan could probably count on the fingers of one hand those who he could trust implicitly with this information.

    Hopefully we will get to the bottom of the matter although by the time we do John Evans will have muddied the water so much we might not recognise it.

    To show that this is not his intention then he needs to release, perhaps via the Compass, all the materials he claims to have so we can judge them with full knowledge of their contents. He has no reason not to.

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  2. I just need to clarify a few points here.

    In May 2011 Lord Justice Moses ruled on the involvement of Governor Stuart Jack in this matter. His fairly unambiguous ruling was reported as – http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2011/05/30/Ex-Gov-dropped-from-Kernohan-lawsuit/ – and it has never been directly challenged.

    Presumably all this evidence of his involvement (and I do not doubt that he was involved) was available two years ago but either was not presented at the time or was simply discounted as not being relevant. So why it is being brought up now? Most observers in the UK think it just represents a backdoor (and questionably legal) attempt to appeal that 2011 decision.

    Next, it is worth pointing out to Mr Bridger that we do not share common aims here. This has been discussed with Martin Polaine in the past and Mr Bridger knows exactly what my position is. My goal is to have a public inquiry that covers the way the police officers and private contractors involved in Operations Tempura and Cealt conducted themselves. Based on the available material the work of that inquiry would be mainly investigating evidence of misconduct by Mr Bridger and his team.

    The final issue relates to Mr Bridger’s possession of my witness statements and presumably those of others involved in Operation Tempura. According to both the RCIPS and the Met, they should have been transferred to the Met for safe keeping but the transfer was never completed and the material is technically unaccounted for. In any event, these are formerly confidential police documents that have now been out of any verifiable chain of custody for over four years so their value as evidence in any criminal complaint is just about zero. In fact producing anything showing that records were removed from an on-going investigation will simply raise more questions about the conduct of Tempura than they might answer.

    Bluntly, this is turning into a mess and it raises a lot of questions about what has motivated these complaints against Governor Jack at this very late stage.

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  3. Beachbum that’s a fair comment. In fact a similar (rather too similar?) request has recently been made by another news organisation but I had to decline it because these documents are now potentially evidence in the Met investigation.

    However, I am prepared to say that what they show is that two very senior Met officers were involved in the investigation during the period the two searches took place. Yet that fact has been omitted from the three statements made against Stuart Jack.

    Call it muddying the waters if you like but all I’m trying to do is make sure that the Met get all the information they need not a carefully selected summary of it.

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  4. Just to save anyone else wasting time asking me questions I will, following a telephone call from one of the parties involved, not be posting any more comments on this story.

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  5. Any idiot can read this report and understand that a crime was committed here. The question is why nothing was done to those persons involved. Further should I sit here and believe that the Governor and all the Top Cayman Dogs knew nothing and their hands are clean?
    My Learned friends, please give some careful thoughts of all that went down. A SEED WAS PLANTED. that means, all of this investigation began somewhere, some how and for some reason. Did this reason have a malicious political intent? Will we ever know? One thing I know it is a shame and disgrace to the island, and makes WATER GATE look simple.
    What really concerns me now, is how much more of this is going to stay covered up, or will the real truth be exposed. Should I really sleep with a peaceful mind in believing that none of our then reigning politicians new nothing about this? HELL NO !!

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  6. I am truly sorry John Evans is withdrawing from this debate for whatever reason. I seek the truth of what happened as much as him and I worry that he has been ‘warned off’.

    I too would like to see what the involvement in these matters was by the then Governor. Stuart Kernohan, through the statements made public, comes across as a professionally ethical man and we really have no doubt as to what he says happens when it happened.

    That leaves, for his benefit, that of John Evans and John Jones, a very real need for the an inquiry into the conduct of the then Governor.

    I do not believe for one moment that there will be any sort of public enquiry and as most of the relevant information is not in the public domain then the only place that it might come out is in court proceedings.

    How those court proceedings comes about is difficult to see. The UK will not stand by and have a now ex Governor pursued I am sure. Stuart Kernohan’s dismissal case is still awaited so that might be one avenue. Martin Bridger’s complaint, alongside that of John Evans might lead somewhere.

    But, I am not going to hold my breath.

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  7. Hunter

    You’ve asked some very relevant questions here, questions that the answers to could very well explain how this all got started in the first place and…

    Anyone who wanted to know, would have known who Desmond Seales’s major political enemy was at the time.

    And this enmity was more personal than business.

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  8. Two other points:

    The statements made public so far do not mention the involvement of the Met Police prior to the entry to the office. We know that Stuart Kernohan appraised the UK FCO’s Larry Covington of events in the days after he received the initial information but we do not know what Covington did about that information. I think it highly likely, having discussed this in detail with Stuart Kernohan, he sought the help of both the UK Based FCO staff (Leigh Turner) and as there was already talk of an independent investigation, it would cause a request to be made to the Met Police.

    That would explain the letter from Turner to Sir Ian Blair. Of course, Stuart Kernohan then hands over the investigation to John Jones and we have no information as to what contacts he made either with Covington or, potentially, the Met Police.

    So much we don’t know eh?

    Finally, Hunter: Forgive me appearing to be an ‘idiot’ but what crime was committed here? If you could explain that it might be useful.

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  9. Beachbum you are asking me what crime was committed here?. My answer is this Is a question. Is it lawful to enter someone’s business place in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning without their permission? to peek, hunt, search or destroy?. Under the Cayman Laws the last time I read, it was a crime to do that. If that has changed please do fill me in.

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  10. Hunter: This is the very point. It would NOT be a crime if the action was authorised by the Governor.

    We could argue all day about burglary and whether a bona fide employee could enter the premises legitimately but the bottom line is that it is claimed the Governor authorised this course of action.

    Whatever the ethics of this – and that is a very interesting area worthy of debate – if the Governor authorised it there is no crime.

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  11. Beachbum – That is a very Nixonian response. When British journalist David Frost asked Nixon about the legality of the president’s actions Nixon replied: Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.

    Unless the law expressly permits the Governor to grant warrants for surreptitious searches of private premises then it was mostly certainly illegal and a breach of human rights. Had the Governor believed it to be perfectly legal, proper and above aboard he would surely have disclosed his authorisation to the Met team from the outset and this whole fiasco would have been finished in a short space of time. Ask youself why he failed to disclose his ‘authorisation’ to them?

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  12. Beachbum you may have some fine thoughts, however; I will not say a good point in saying It would not be a crime if the action was authorized by the GOVERNOR

    IN Cayman term I would like to put it this way IF THE GOVERNOR THINK HE BAD, THEN TELL SOMEONE TO ENTER MY HOME WHILE I AM NOT THERE AT NIGHT AND SEE WHAT THEY WILL GET?
    If the Governor authorized this break-in he is guilty, and should be charged with all those he sent there in the middle of the night. IT sends a clear message of Corruption, corruption, corruption, and it shows what can be done by these people we hold trust in, and as a matter of fact still being done on this island. I call it Highway Robbery, and it should be death with under Cayman laws. It was carried out here after all. wasn’t it?

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Comments are closed.