Operation Tempura called ‘sorry saga’

Governor thought it was over

A corruption-related investigation that officially ended before Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor arrived in January 2010 has dogged the UK appointee’s footsteps throughout his entire tenure, even as he now prepares to board a flight to depart the territory for good.

“When I arrived here … I said that Operation Tempura is over,” Mr. Taylor said last week during an interview with the local media. “Well, it was over, but some of the consequential disputes continue.”

The outgoing governor will leave office with a court action under way seeking to block the release of some documents related to the corruption investigation. Mr. Taylor filed a judicial review to prevent a complaint by Operation Tempura’s former legal counsel and its senior investigator from being made public. A 185-page evaluation of that complaint, which cost Cayman Islands taxpayers more than $300,000, has also been withheld from release via the court action.

Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert ruled last year that those records should be made available to the public.

Mr. Taylor said Thursday that he still disagrees on that point.

According to earlier UK press reports, the complaint that was taken up by Tempura’s former senior investigating officer Martin Bridger alleged inappropriate conduct against sitting members of the Cayman Islands judiciary and certain staffers within the attorney general’s office during the course of the investigation. Tempura was active between September 2007 and late 2009 in the Cayman Islands, after which its remaining related investigations were taken over by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

The governor said the claims made in the complaint by Mr. Bridger were simply untrue.

“I believe that the reasons for dismissing the complaint [is that] some of the elements of that complaint contain defamatory material, and that their release would risk undermining confidence in the judiciary and other people complained against and I think that’s a powerful reason to keep that document confidential,” he said.

Mr. Bridger has also repeatedly refused to release a copy of his complaint to the Compass, saying he promised Governor Taylor he would not do so.

Since the court action over the complaint, Mr. Bridger has also sought to press criminal charges against former Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack, Cayman Islands Attorney General Sam Bulgin, and Larry Covington, a UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office official based in Florida – claiming the men essentially lied to him over the level of their own involvement in the incident that led to the Tempura investigation; an unauthorised entry by police informants into the former offices of Cayman Net News in 2007.

“There are some continuing allegations that are being made,” Mr. Taylor said last week. “Those allegations have to be always taken seriously. They need to be looked at carefully within the law. I barely draw breath with anything to do with Operation Tempura without seeking legal advice, because it’s something of a minefield.”

Mr. Bridger’s criminal complaint, originally filed with the UK Metropolitan Police, was punted to the Cayman Islands when Met officials decided they were “conflicted” in the potential investigation. Mr. Bridger has yet to file a criminal complaint over the issue with the RCIPS.

“I would fervently hope that these outstanding issues that have arisen out of Operation Tempura will be resolved one way or another within the not too distant future and will reach the stage where we can say that rather sorry saga really is behind us,” Mr. Taylor said.

It seems unlikely. In addition to Mr. Bridger’s pending matters, former RCIPS Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and ex-Police Inspector Burmon Scott still have matters before the court in the form of lawsuits filed against the government over Operation Tempura.

Tempura witness John Evans, who has been involved in the case since its inception as one of the RCIPS’s informants in the Net News office entry caper, said Friday that numerous questions from the case persist.

“As an ex-civil servant, I have a great deal of sympathy with everyone at the [UK foreign office] who has been dragged into this mess,” Mr. Evans said. “The natural, and understandable, reaction is to try and bury it all. but this has to be balanced by the potential damage…caused to the people and the reputation of the Cayman Islands.

“Personally, I think that balance has been allowed to shift too far towards protecting the FCO at the expense of the Cayman Islands.”

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