Foreign office adviser ‘had no operational role’ in Tempura

In a rare press statement to the Cayman Islands media, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office indicated Monday that its Florida-based law enforcement adviser for the overseas territories in the Caribbean and Bermuda “had no operational role” in the ill-fated Operation Tempura corruption investigation.

Larry Covington, who has largely remained in the background of the Tempura fiasco, had his name come up in a Cayman Islands Grand Court judgment released last week. The judgment concerned a side dispute related to the lawsuit former Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan filed against government over his 2008 firing.

A number of issues arose out of the judgment written by Grand Court Justice Richard Williams, including some apparently conflicting accounts regarding who was in charge of the corruption investigation. The two-year, $10 million probe led to the eventual replacement of three of the four top RCIPS commanders between 2007 and 2009. There were no criminal convictions in the case.

Following the revelations contained in the court ruling, U.K. foreign office officials were keen to clarify Mr. Covington’s role in the investigation.

“Larry Covington’s role, as the law enforcement adviser for the Caribbean Overseas Territories and Bermuda, was to provide guidance and advice to the governor, the commissioner of police and the director for the overseas territories on the conduct of Operation Tempura. He had no operational role.

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“As such, he was a member of the investigation’s strategic oversight group, which was formed to ensure that the investigation was conducted according to the agreed terms of reference of the investigation. Mr. Covington agreed to step down as a member of that group on Jan. 4, 2008, after he had been asked to provide a witness statement to the investigation team. This would have conflicted with his role in remaining on the Strategic Oversight Group.

“It is therefore misleading to suggest that he was removed for other reasons. After Jan. 4, 2008, Mr Covington had no involvement in any investigative decisions in relation to Operation Tempura.”

The question of Mr. Covington’s involvement in the investigation arose partly because Mr. Justice Williams’s ruling disclosed an affidavit given by former assistant commissioner of the U.K. Metropolitan Police, John Yates, in relation to Operation Tempura on Oct. 23, 2008. Mr. Yates’s affidavit details further statements by the former Met police number two man regarding what happened in Cayman with Operation Tempura prior to the arrival of Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger’s 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.

The appearance that Mr. Covington 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. The FCO statement released Monday indicated that he had “no involvement in any investigative decisions” following Jan. 4, 2008.

“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’s ruling last week indicated.

Questions were sent to the FCO regarding former Governor Jack’s role in Tempura matters. No response had been received as of press time.

The Cayman Islands attorney general’s chambers obtained a separate affidavit from Mr. Yates in October 2012, 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, and former Cayman Islands Chief Secretary George McCarthy, and Mr. McCarthy’s successor, Donovan Ebanks, among others.

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