Who was really in charge of Operation Tempura?

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. 


  1. I can add a bit to this story.

    On 3 February 2009 Richard Coy (who is quoted above) emailed me saying – I am a special constable in RCIPS who holds a contract as an investigator with Donovan EBANKS Deputy Chief Secretary/Chief Officer Portfolio of Internal/External Affairs.

    A number of other emails released to me under FOI also show that Mr Ebanks was effectively Martin Bridger’s boss for at least part of the operation during late 2008 and into 2009 so it seems a bit odd he is not quoted here.

    Then another release, this time from the Met at the beginning of last year, suggested a rather different situation during early 2008.

    Referring to a decision made by John Yates in February 2008 to replace serving Met officers with ex-members of the force on contract it reads – With Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) authorisation contracts were put in place with two companies to provide the services of appropriate contractors for this investigation. Contractors were successfully engaged under contract to support this operation with all costs reclaimable from the Cayman Islands.

    Personally, I don’t think anyone is ever going to put their hands up and admit responsibility for this mess. Unless some of those involved face, as I now believe they should, criminal charges for theft and unlawfully interception of confidential communications this is just going to drag on and on without any resolution. Whether it is worth diverting valuable RCIPS resources onto the investigation required is debateable and, thankfully, not my decision to make.

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