Depending on what a British court decides, the Operation Tempura corruption investigation’s former senior investigator may be required to return documents in his possession related to the two-year, $10 million probe.
According to U.K. court records obtained by the Caymanian Compass, proceedings brought against retired British lawman Martin Bridger last year by Cayman Islands Attorney General Sam Bulgin and Police Commissioner David Baines sought the return of most of those documents to government.
The Cayman government’s application for summary judgment in the case was denied. But Michael Kent, QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the Queen’s Bench Division hearing the case on July 27, 2012, made an order staying the matter “until the judgment of Justice [Richard Williams]” in the Cayman Islands.
Justice Williams’s ruling in the case, made public last week, indicated that the Cayman court’s view that Mr. Bridger was holding on to “legally privileged” documents in relation to the Tempura investigation, which he left in April 2009.
Justice Kent, hearing the U.K. case last year, commented that Mr. Bridger appeared to wish to hold onto the Tempura records to better defend himself against a civil lawsuit filed against both the former top investigator and the Cayman Islands government by former Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan.
Mr. Kernohan claims in the suit that he was wrongly fired from his job in 2008 as a result of improper actions taken by the government and Mr. Bridger.
According to the U.K. court ruling: “This is a complex issue and as I have said [the government’s attorney] may well be right in his analysis, and Mr. Bridger may find in due course that he does have to hand over these documents.
“I suspect also that the Cayman Islands court will have to grapple at some point with the issue of his role and his status in the inquiry and who owns the documents, indirectly at any rate, because someone is going to have to decide if legal professional privilege is shown to have existed and who, that is Mr. Bridger on the one hand or the attorney general on the other, has the right to waive it.”
Justice Williams’s ruled last Thursday that the Operation Tempura documents – containing, among other things, legal advice and private correspondence between investigating officers working for the government – were privileged to the attorney general, not Mr. Bridger.
Where that left Mr. Bridger in relation to the lawsuit filed against him by Mr. Kernohan was unclear. The Caymanian Compass spoke to the former lawman by phone in the U.K. this week and he indicated that he may not be able to mount a defense to the lawsuit if he could not use the records in his possession.
Justice Williams sidestepped that question in Thursday’s judgment.
“[Mr. Bridger’s attorney] Robert Englehart, Q.C., in his written submissions invited the court … to order that the Kernohan proceedings should not proceed to trial on the basis that … Mr. Bridger could not fairly defend himself,” the judgment reads.
“If there is any merit in such an application in this case, this is not the time to consider it, especially in the absence of Mr. Kernohan,” Justice Williams noted in the judgment.
Justice Kent in the U.K. also partially addressed the matter in his 2012 ruling.
“[Mr. Bridger’s] fears in that regard ought to be misplaced as the documents, if relevant to his defense, would still be discloseable by the attorney general in [the Kernohan lawsuit proceedings],” according to the ruling on form of order issued by Justice Kent.
It was also not clear how or when Mr. Kernohan’s lawsuit against the Cayman Islands government and Mr. Bridger would proceed. Emails and calls to Mr. Kernohan’s attorney in the U.K. regarding the subject had not been answered by press time.