Stories in court testimony conflict
New evidence made public in a Cayman Islands Grand Court judgment released last week raises more questions concerning whether it was local officials, or managers with the U.K. Metropolitan Police and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, that had ultimate control of the ill-fated Operation Tempura investigation.
The judgment from Grand Court Justice Richard Williams addresses a separate issue entirely. However, it provides details of heretofore unavailable statements from individuals intimately involved in the Tempura case – including former Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger and former Assistant Commissioner of the UK Metropolitan Police John Yates.
Operation Tempura was a two-year, $10 million investigation into alleged police corruption in the Cayman that ended with no convictions of anyone for anything. However, it also ended up eventually removing the former hierarchy of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
According to the court records: “[it is contended] that Mr. Bridger, and those involved in the operation, were subject to the supervision of Assistant Commissioner Yates of the Metropolitan Police Service as lead reviewing officer.”
An email from Mr. Yates to former Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan sent on Sept. 4, 2007, revealed in the court records, states the following: “We both agreed that neither [Mr. Kernohan] nor the governor [of the Cayman Islands, Stuart Jack, at the time] were appropriate to undertake this task due to potential conflicts….”
Mr. Yates also wrote in the email of the importance of selecting a person with the appropriate experience and seniority who also did not have any conflicts in the matter.
“We both recognize that the individual who is identified [to] undertake this role must be of sufficient seniority, experience and political acumen to be able to oversee the enquiry and manage whatever outcome emerges,” Mr. Yates wrote in the Sept. 4, 2007 email. “Once the above is resolved, an initial scoping will be undertaken as soon as possible by unidentified senior Metropolitan Police Service [officer] who has appropriate experience.”
An affidavit given by Mr. Yates on Oct. 23, 2008 details further statements by the former Met police number two man regarding what happened in Cayman with Operation Tempura prior to the arrival of Mr. Bridger’s investigative team.
“Agreement was reached between the commissioner, Stuart Kernohan, and I that [Foreign and Commonwealth official] Larry Covington would provide ‘on island’ oversight and guidance and that I [referring to Mr. Yates] would provide periodic reviews of the investigation,” the affidavit stated.
“It therefore appears that the Metropolitan Police viewed their role was to review, advise and make recommendations, but that the immediate oversight and guidance would come from Mr. Covington,” Mr. Justice Williams wrote in the judgment issued last week.
Mr. Covington, who was based in Miami, Florida at the time, was an official employed in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The appearance that he was to provide “guidance” in the investigation appears to conflict with a statement former Governor Jack made to the Caymanian Compass in September 2008.
“Neither I, nor anyone in London, instructs [Mr. Bridger’s investigation team] how to conduct their investigations or what conclusions they should reach,” Mr. Jack wrote.
An email from Mr. Covington to a staff member in former Governor Jack’s office on Sept. 5, 2007 states that: “Stuart [Kernohan] and I have discussed this at length and have mutually concurred, and at Stuart’s request, that I represent him in joint oversight of the investigation with Assistant Commissioner John Yates [or his representative] from the Metropolitan Police Service.”
Mr. Covington was eventually taken out of that role.
“Mr. Bridger indicated that as the operation moved forward, Mr. Covington was removed from an oversight position and replaced by the governor, who acted in concert with Assistant Commissioner Yates,” Mr. Justice Williams ruling of last week indicated.
The Cayman Islands attorney general’s chambers obtained a separate affidavit from Mr. Yates in October 2012, more than four years later, in which he states that: “The immediate line of management [for Operation Tempura] was to the Senior Investigating Officer [Mr. Bridger], who, through the strategic oversight group reported and was responsible to the commissioner of the RCIPS.
“The commissioner of the RCIPS was responsible and accountable in law for the overall management and outcome of the investigation.”
The strategic oversight group consisted of a number of members, including Mr. Bridger, the acting commissioner of the RCIPS, former Cayman Islands Chief Secretary George McCarthy, among others.
Yet none of the police officers who gave affidavits recorded in Justice Williams’s ruling indicated they believed that RCIPS was even involved in the Tempura investigation.
Inspector Richard Coy, Mr. Bridger’s second-in-command during most of Operation Tempura, stated, “the team was independent from the RCIPS.”
“He received instructions and advice from the independent team, but never from senior members of the RCIPS,” the court ruling notes.
Ronald Kemp, a retired UK Met officer who worked on Tempura, also indicated that it was his belief that the investigation was of an independent nature.
Timothy Thorne, who participated as a forensic computer examiner indicated, “Assistant Commissioner John Yates had authorised his involvement” in Operation Tempura.
“He stated that … at no time did he take any instruction from the RCIPS,” the judgment stated.
The Cayman Islands attorney general’s chambers, in submissions to the court, state, “from the outset, the Operation Tempura officers reported to the strategic oversight group.
“All but one of the strategic oversight group meetings were chaired by either Acting [Police] Commissioner David George or Acting [Police] Commissioner Jim Smith,” the attorney general’s chambers contended.