Ex-Gov: ‘High time’ Bridger held accountable

Allegations that he broke Cayman Islands law are “materially false,” claims former Governor Stuart Jack, in remarks blasting Operation Tempura’s former chief investigator – the man he once backed to clean up corruption in the local police force.  

“I totally reject any suggestion that I acted unlawfully,” Mr. Jack said in a statement to the Caymanian Compass. “These allegations are materially false and defamatory.” 

Martin Bridger, who led the Operation Tempura investigation between September 2007 and April 2009, filed a criminal complaint last weekend with Police Commissioner David Baines regarding how certain aspects of the probe were handled by his superiors in Cayman and in the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 

Mr. Bridger’s complaint repeats allegations he filed in 2013 with the U.K. Metropolitan Police. He alleges “very senior Crown servants” – including Mr. Jack, Cayman Islands Attorney General Samuel Bulgin and FCO adviser Larry Covington – lied to him during the course of the nearly two-year corruption probe. All three men have denied any wrongdoing in connection with the case.  

Mr. Jack, who served as Cayman’s governor between 2005 and 2009, responded: “His claims are fundamentally undermined by the documentary evidence. It is Mr. Bridger who is misleading the police and wasting police time.  

“It is high time for him to be held accountable for his irresponsible and damaging behavior.”  

Mr. Jack did not state whether he intended to pursue legal action over Mr. Bridger’s complaint to the RCIPS. However, he did say he would “look forward” to assisting local officers in resolving the matter.  

“I have every confidence that they will expose the falseness of Mr. Bridger’s allegations,” he said.  

Allan Gibson, a senior officer with the U.K. Metropolitan Police who evaluated Mr. Bridger’s complaint in 2013, reported: “In essence, the offenses being alleged are against [Mr.] Jack, [Mr.] Bulgin and [Mr.] Covington amount to misconduct in public office, attempting to pervert the [course] of justice, and possibly wasting police time. It is my view that the allegations are serious and contain sufficient detail to warrant a criminal investigation.”  

Mr. Gibson indicated, however, that U.K. Met officers could not investigate the case because of conflicts arising from the fact that Mr. Bridger was employed by the Met during his first 10 months in Cayman and worked for the agency for most of his career.  

Mr. Bridger’s statement  

Responding to the former governor’s comments, Mr. Bridger sent the following statement on Thursday:  

”It remains the decision of Mr. Baines as to whether an investigation is conducted. If an investigation does commence, I hope it provides clarity as to what in fact did take place in relation to the matters complained of.” 

Both former Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and former RCIPS Chief Superintendent John Jones, who were once the targets of the Operation Tempura probe, sent letters to the U.K. Met that supported Mr. Bridger’s allegations to a certain extent, particularly regarding what Mr. Jack and Mr. Bulgin knew about a covert operation to search the offices of the Cayman Net News in early September 2007. 

In a statement to the U.K. Met Police last year, Mr. Jones said 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 Mr. 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.  

Neither man has sent similar documentation to the RCIPS, as far as the Compass is aware.  

When contacted for comment about Mr. Bridger’s recent allegations to the RCIPS, John Evans, the former journalist involved in the September 2007 covert office entry at Net News, said he doubted the U.K. Metropolitan Police could have taken much of a look at Mr. Bridger’s claims.  

“It is a matter of record that I contacted Commander [Allan] Gibson in May 2013 …. and advised him of my serious concerns about the accuracy of the contents of Mr. Bridger’s complaint, particularly areas where the Met’s own records contradict some of the allegations,” Mr. Evans said. “He didn’t request copies of these documents, nor did his officers even bother to take a statement from me. You do have to wonder how thorough their review really was.” 

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Stuart Jack

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1 COMMENT

  1. I find it interesting to compare the way in which this complaint from Mr Bridger (and obviously the previous one that resulted in a CI335,000 bill for the Aina report) has been handled to the treatment my complaints have received over the past five years. In basic terms it seems that while Mr Bridger gets given the red carpet treatment I get the bird.

    Why is it that when Mr Bridger makes accusations everyone bends over backwards to investigate but when I submit proof, as has happened with my investigation into the 2009 audit and the revelations about the missing Tempura documents, that something has gone seriously wrong all I get is excuses?

    Although I agree fully with his comments in this story it is my opinion that one of the main reasons we have reached this sorry situation is the failure of former Governor Stuart Jack to act decisively at the end of 2008. The damning judgment produced at that time by Justice Cresswell, which stated that the actions of Mr Bridger and his associates constituted the gravest abuse of the process, gave ample grounds for either the Governor or Acting CoP James Smith to suspend the lot of them pending an internal investigation but nothing happened. At that point the whole operation was totally discredited and as it was going nowhere fast anyway it would hardly have been a great loss. As we now know what actually happened was this costly farce was allowed to trundle on without producing any tangible results before eventually hitting the proverbial buffers in April 2010 and being handed over to RCIPS.

    Over the years I have repeatedly called for a public inquiry into the conduct of Tempura/Cealt but that suggestion has been met with puerile comments like Lessons have been learned and I now accept that the passage of time coupled with the loss of vital evidence and mounting confusion over what did or did not happen has killed that option. A public inquiry now would just turn into a slanging match.

    However, it is worth reflecting that if Duncan Taylor has agreed to an inquiry in early 2010, when all the facts were still available, it might well have saved the Cayman Islands the cost of things like the Aina report, the on-going litigation over ownership of documents, the FOI hearing last year, the RCIPS resources that will be tied up in this latest investigation and probably a lot more. It could also have killed the whole Tempura debate and finally buried this entire sorry mess. While I can understand the decision by the FCO to block a public inquiry into what must be a very embarrassing saga it seems more than a bit unfair to expect the people of the Cayman islands to continue to foot the bill for all this, particularly when you bear in mind they were hit for over CI10million just to fund the initial phases of Tempura/Cealt up to January 2009 and there are still 15 months of operational expenses plus the costs of the various legal actions in the last four years to be accounted for. However much the total is, it certainly will not be pocket change.

    Sometimes it seems to me the problem here is we are dealing with a history of one bad decision after another, all made by people to whom the Cayman Islands are just another step up the career ladder from where they can eventually move on to hopefully bigger and better things leaving the mess behind for someone else to clear up.