Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, former Governor Stuart Jack and FCO adviser Larry Covington named in allegations
The former senior investigator in Operation Tempura has filed a criminal complaint with Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines against Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, former Governor Stuart Jack and the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office adviser Larry Covington in relation to the ill-fated investigation.
Martin Bridger’s complaint makes the same allegations regarding Tempura as those he filed with the U.K. Metropolitan Police last year. Mr. Bridger lodged a formal allegation with Scotland Yard claiming that “very senior Crown servants” lied to him during the course of the nearly two-year corruption probe, thereby drawing out what otherwise would have been a quick investigation.
Police Commissioner David Baines told the Caymanian Compass Tuesday that he received the complaint, alleging criminal conduct, from Mr. Bridger, adding “it is premature and therefore inappropriate for me to comment further.”
Senior officers with the U.K. Met police said it was their view that the criminal allegations Mr. Bridger made against former Cayman Islands governor Mr. Jack, current Attorney General Mr. Bulgin and U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth adviser Mr. Covington should be looked into further. All three men have previously denied any wrongdoing in connection with the Tempura probe.
U.K. Metropolitan Police Commander Allan Gibson said in May that while there is enough information to pursue an investigation into Mr. Bridger’s claims, the U.K. Met Police Service would find itself “conflicted” in conducting such an investigation.
“In essence, the offences being alleged are against [Mr.] Jack, [Mr. Bulgin] and [Mr.] Covington and amount to misconduct in public office, attempting to pervert the [course] of justice and possibly wasting police time,” states the letter to then-Governor Duncan Taylor from Mr. Gibson, sent on May 9, 2013. “It is my view that the allegations are serious and contain sufficient detail to warrant a criminal investigation.”
Former Governor Taylor delegated the entire matter to Commissioner Baines and did not comment on whether he thought the local police service would face similar conflicts: “It would be open to the [RCIPS] Commissioner [David Baines] to enlist police officers from outside the Cayman Islands upon such contractual terms as to him may appear necessary …”
If the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service were to retain control of such an investigation – assuming one was undertaken – it would put responsibility for any further criminal probe into Operation Tempura under the control of the agency that had its three top commanders placed on required leave during that case. None of those commanders, former Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, Deputy Commissioner Rudi Dixon or Chief Superintendent John Jones, still work for the local police service.
Commissioner Baines arrived in Cayman in mid-2009 while Operation Tempura and its off-shoot investigation, Operation Cealt, were ongoing. A number of cases handled by Mr. Baines’s Anti-Corruption Unit involved matters uncovered during the course of Operation Cealt.
Mr. Baines has been involved directly in certain aspects of the case, seeking to effect the return of certain privileged legal records Mr. Bridger kept in his possession after he left the Cayman Islands in April 2009. The dispute over those records, which Mr. Bridger wishes to use in his own defense in a lawsuit filed against him by Mr. Kernohan, is still unresolved.
“If the commissioner of the RCIPS agrees that a criminal investigation should be conducted, it is, of course, a matter for him who conducts the investigation,” Mr. Bridger said Monday. “Although, I feel it would be difficult for local officers to conduct the investigation.”
Questions sent to the RCIPS regarding the handling of the complaint went unanswered by press time.
Accusations rile AG
The allegations made by Mr. Bridger are just that; no one has been arrested, charged or – at this stage – even questioned in connection with the matter.
Attorney General Bulgin was contacted Monday and again on Tuesday for comment and eventually indicated he had nothing further to say on the matter. He told the Compass last year that he viewed Mr. Bridger’s allegations as “extremely defamatory,” given that separate court reviews of the matter by Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, U.K. Lord Chief Justice Alan Moses and then-visiting Judge Sir Peter Cresswell had all criticized one aspect or another of the Operation Tempura investigation as conducted by Mr. Bridger and/or his one-time legal adviser Martin Polaine.
Mr. Polaine was recently given his law license back in the U.K. after being disbarred following the events of Operation Tempura.
“This is yet another scandalous move in an ongoing campaign by Mr. Bridger, whom I am told has now joined forces with Mr. Kernohan,” Mr. Bulgin said last year. “The combined activities of these two men to date have already cost the Cayman Islands government millions of dollars, but for some reason they are bent on conduct which causes further financial and reputational damage to these islands and its various institutions.
“Not only do I strongly deny, but also resent any assertions of my being untruthful to the Tempura investigators. There is not a shred of independent or contemporaneous evidence to support such a scurrilous claim and, to the contrary, the documents from that time demonstrate conclusively that the allegation is not true.
“It is remarkable that Mr. Bridger’s one-sided and inaccurate account of events, which are to his own entire discredit, should have been thought worthy of further investigation. Once the documents are examined, however, his account does not stand scrutiny.”
Mr. Covington has called Mr. Bridger’s claims “malicious accusations,” while former Governor Jack called the claims completely baseless. The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also said that Mr. Covington “had no operational role” in the Tempura investigation.
An FCO representative in London was contacted for comment on this story and provided the following statement: “Operation Tempura was, and remains, a complex issue. There are still matters relating to this case which are the subject of court proceedings and we are, therefore, unable to comment further.”
Both Mr. Kernohan and former RCIPS Chief Superintendent Jones have supported Mr. Bridger’s allegations to a certain extent, particularly regarding what Mr. Jack and Mr. Bulgin knew about the operation.
In a statement to the U.K. Met Police last year, Mr. Jones even went so far as to claim that Mr. Jack had attempted to “deliberately conceal” the level of his involvement in Operation Tempura.
A seven-page statement Mr. Kernohan submitted to the U.K. Met in support of Mr. Bridger’s claims states that former Cayman Islands Governor Jack knew of, and authorized, a covert entry into the offices of Cayman Net News newspaper in September 2007, looking for evidence of a “corrupt relationship” between the newspaper’s publisher and a deputy police commissioner. That entry tipped off the lengthy investigation into the RCIPS, stemming into a number of different areas. No one was ever prosecuted over the original entry into Net News after Chief Justice Anthony Smellie ruled no offense had occurred.
Significant detail contained in Mr. Kernohan’s statement to the U.K. Met on April 10, 2013, alleges a level of involvement by former Governor
Jack, up to and including authorization of the use of Net News employees to perform a covert search as part of the investigation, that had not previously been revealed.
“If [the governor] had admitted that, I would’ve been gone in two weeks,” Mr. Bridger has said.