UK Metropolitan Police officers obtained and reviewed the content of thousands of email messages from both government and private accounts during the course of the ill-fated Operation Tempura corruption investigation in the Cayman Islands, a former officer involved in that probe confirmed to the Caymanian Compass this week.
In addition, hundreds of local telephone numbers, including phone numbers used for texting, were obtained from both government sources and private individuals during the investigation. The content of the conversations in those phone calls and texts was not reviewed by officers.
However, the content of the emails was examined but only after court orders or permission from relevant government agencies cooperating with the Tempura probe was given, according to retired UK police investigator John Kemp. A court order from the UK was obtained for investigators who sought emails from a Yahoo account, he said.
The retired UK lawman said the emails he reviewed only concerned those individuals immediately involved in the initial Operation Tempura investigation, which dealt with the legal authorisation for a 3 September, 2007, entry into the offices of Cayman Net News.
“It was less than a dozen people [whose emails were reviewed],” Mr. Kemp said, adding that all relevant local laws were followed in obtaining email messages. However, Mr. Kemp also pointed out that one single email account could contain hundreds or even thousands of communications that would have also been reviewed to determine their relevance, if any, in the police investigation.
Section 75 of the Cayman Islands Information and Communications Technology Authority Law allows for several law enforcement-related interceptions of communications on an ICT network. Such interceptions can be done via a warrant or order issued by the governor, or if the person to whom the message was sent or who sent the message has consented to the intercept.
Under the law, any police officer with the rank of inspector or above can require ICT records. Section 77 of the law makes it a criminal offence for any communications network provider in the Cayman Islands who fails to produce any document, message, record or other information relating to its network or users of the network if those records are “required by a constable of the rank of inspector or above … for the prevention or detection of crime or for the purposes of any criminal proceedings”.
The Caymanian Compass has approached Attorney General Sam Bulgin, former Chief Secretary, former Chairman of the Operation Tempura Oversight Committee and current CIMA Chairman George McCarthy and former Governor Stuart Jack with a series of queries regarding their roles in the authorisation/approval of probes into both private and public telephone calls, text messages and emails. None had responded as of press time Tuesday.
Mr. Kemp said there were easily “hundreds of numbers” reviewed by the Operation Tempura team during his time in Cayman, between February 2008 and June 2009. Those phone numbers were not only from individuals included in the initial Operation Tempura investigation, but also in the spin-off probe – known as Operation Cealt.
“As part of [the operations] we were investigating allegations that had been made years earlier,” Mr. Kemp said. “Certainly, some of [the cases] went back to 2001.”
Several dozen cases involving various allegations against the police as part of Operation Cealt were looked into by Mr. Kemp and other UK Met officers who were in Cayman between September 2007 and late-2009.
However, both Mr. Kemp and his one-time boss, Operation Tempura Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger, said Monday that no “phone tapping” methods were employed as part of the anti-corruption probe.
“I categorically state that, in the whole of the Operation Tempura investigation, while I was in charge, there was no wiretapping,” Mr. Bridger said via telephone from his home in England on Monday.
The telephone records review was much broader in nature than what was involved with the emails, Mr. Kemp said.
Operation Cealt began in 2008 as a spin-off investigation to Operation Tempura. At one point, according to police, Cealt involved 161 allegations made against former or current members of the police service.
In April 2012, the RCIPS revealed there were 19 cases from the Cealt probe still unresolved. The nature of the remaining anti-corruption unit cases were not disclosed by police who provided the information about the 19 pending cases in a response to an open records request by the Compass.
According to another recent open records request, eight members of the RCIPS were subjected to disciplinary action earlier as the result of findings in the Operation Tempura and Operation Cealt misconduct investigations. The police service confirmed eight officers were disciplined, six of whom were dismissed or forced to retire, as a result of the investigations being conducted against them. The two others faced unspecified disciplinary action. The RCIPS also did not specify what allegations against staff members led to their discipline or dismissal.
Compass journalist Tad Stoner contributed to this report.