The UK Metropolitan Police Service has recommended that a criminal investigation be commenced against the Cayman Islands attorney general, one of the territory’s former governors and an American-based adviser with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in connection with the ill-fated Operation Tempura corruption probe.
The Met has recorded the allegations against three men – former Governor Stuart Jack, Attorney General Sam Bulgin and FCO adviser Larry Covington – in its “crime-related incident system”. But the police force has declined to take up the probe itself.
All three men have denied any wrongdoing.
“It is the [Metropolitan Police Services’] view that we are conflicted, and in order to ensure that both transparency and independence is maintained, we should not conduct this new investigation,” read a letter sent to Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor on 9 May by UK Met police commander Allan Gibson.
Mr. Gibson’s letter was sent to Governor Taylor following a criminal complaint made to the UK Met by former Operation Tempura senior investigating officer Martin Bridger.
Mr. Bridger has alleged that “very senior Crown servants” lied to him during the course of that nearly two-year long probe, thereby drawing out what should have been a quick case.
The former senior investigator’s statements are backed up by claims made by former Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, who said that former Governor Jack knew of and authorised a covert entry into the offices of the Cayman Net News newspaper in September 2007, looking for evidence of a “corrupt relationship” between the newspaper’s publisher and an RCIPS deputy police commissioner. Significant detail contained in Mr. Kernohan’s statement to the UK Met in April 2013 alleged a level of involvement by former Governor Jack, up to and including authorisation of the use of Net News employees to perform the covert search as part of the police investigation, that had not previously been revealed.
“If [Mr. Jack] had admitted that, I would’ve been gone in two weeks,” Mr. Bridger said last month during an interview with the Caymanian Compass. As it turned out, the retired UK lawman ended up staying in Cayman from September 2007 to April 2009 to investigate allegations of corruption in the local police force. No one was ever convicted of a crime in connection with that investigation.
“In essence, the offences being alleged are against Stuart Jack; [Samuel Bulgin] and Larry Covington and amount to misconduct in public office, attempting to pervert the [course] of justice and possibly wasting police time,” read the letter to Governor Taylor from Mr. Gibson. “It is my view that the allegations are serious and contain sufficient detail to warrant a criminal investigation.
“However, given that the allegations have been made by the very same officer who was sent by the [Met Police Service] to the Cayman Islands to carry out a scoping exercise … it is the [Met Police Service’s] view that we are conflicted.”
The allegations made by Mr. Bridger are just that; no one has been arrested, charged or – at this stage – even questioned in connection with the matter.
Attorney General Bulgin told the Compass Monday that he viewed Mr. Bridger’s allegations as “extremely defamatory”, given separate court reviews of the matter by Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, UK Lord Chief Justice Alan Moses and then-visiting Judge Sir Peter Cresswell had all criticised one aspect or another of the Operation Tempura investigation as conducted by Mr. Bridger and/or his one-time legal adviser Martin Polaine.
“It would be understandable for me to refrain from making any comments given that there are civil proceedings pending before the courts concerning the very issues raised in the story,” Mr. Bulgin said in a written statement sent to the Caymanian Compass. “However, I am content to note that this is yet another scandalous move in an ongoing campaign by Mr. Bridger, whom I am told has now joined forces with Mr. Kernohan.
“The combined activities of these two men to date have already cost the Cayman Islands government millions of dollars, but for some reason they are bent on conduct which causes further financial and reputational damage to these islands and its various institutions.
“Not only do I strongly deny, but also resent any assertions of my being untruthful to the Tempura investigators. There is not a shred of independent or contemporaneous evidence to support such a scurrilous claim and, to the contrary, the documents from that time demonstrate conclusively that the allegation is not true.
“It is remarkable that Mr. Bridger’s one-sided and inaccurate account of events which are to his own entire discredit should have been thought worthy of further investigation. Once the documents are examined, however, his account does not stand scrutiny.
“This is yet another shameful slur on the reputation of the Cayman Islands coming from a man who, by his conduct during the Operation Tempura investigations, long ago forfeited all credibility in these islands.
“I note this for what it apparently is – a disgraceful and unfounded attack from discredited sources pursuing personal agendas. I will be considering instructing counsel both here and in the UK to pursue defamation actions against those responsible.”
Mr. Jack sent the following comment to the Caymanian Compass late Monday afternoon: “I categorically deny the allegations made by Martin Bridger. One can only assume that Mr Bridger’s continued attempts to undermine my credibility are designed to further his own interests in relation to the forthcoming civil proceedings in the Cayman Islands. Such baseless accusations are deeply upsetting to my family and harmful to my reputation. I look forward to giving evidence as a witness when those civil proceedings come for trial in the Cayman Islands Grand Court. I have no doubt that the Court will find Mr Bridger’s remarks to be wholly unsubstantiated.”*
A brief statement about the call for an investigation was received from Mr. Covington on Monday: “These are malicious allegations, which I vehemently deny. I have no further comment to make at this time until I seek legal advice.”
With regard to Mr. Jack’s remarks concerning an investigation, it was unclear at press time who would even be able to look into such a case. If the UK Met commanders considered themselves “conflicted”, the RCIPS – the department initially at the centre of the corruption investigation led by Mr. Bridger – certainly could be said to have the same issues.
The Compass contacted Governor Taylor’s office for comment on the matter Monday. Mr. Taylor’s chief of staff, Steve Moore, said they were awaiting legal advice before responding to Mr. Bridger’s complaint.