The initial special investigation into Cayman police (and one judge) concluded more than four years ago. While there have been long stretches of quietude since then, don’t be deceived: Beneath the surface, Tempura’s hot embers have continued to smolder, threatening to ignite with revelations the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office wants to avoid at any cost — especially if the cost is borne by someone else’s treasury (meaning ours).
The latest news is that the government’s tab exceeded $500,000 just to continue the concealment of records sought in a Freedom of Information request.
For background, Operation Tempura’s former senior officer Martin Bridger filed a complaint over Tempura. That led government to spend $335,000 for U.K. attorney Benjamin Aina to evaluate Mr. Bridger’s complaint. In response to an open records request, former Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert then ordered that the Office of the Governor make Mr. Bridger’s complaint and Mr. Aina’s evaluation public. The governor, who didn’t like what he read in Mr. Bridger’s complaint, responded by challenging Mrs. Dilbert’s decision in Grand Court.
There, judge Sir Alan Moses ordered that some of the issues around the court challenge be sent back to the information commissioner for further consideration.
Mrs. Dilbert’s office spent nearly $175,000 to litigate the challenge, including fees for outside local counsel which was assisted by a U.K. attorney. Unknown is how much the Attorney General’s Office (for the governor) spent on its own outside counsel.
When government lawyers hire private lawyers to battle another government entity in court, the verdict is predictable: The lawyers win, and the taxpayers lose.
Tempura was an operational nightmare, and a financial black hole. The U.K. messed it up and ever since has been covering it up. The ill-fated investigation produced two criminal trials, zero convictions and a $1.275 million settlement in favor of Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson for unlawful arrest.
Still to be resolved is a behemoth of a lawsuit filed by former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, who lost his job in the debacle.
We know that both the U.K. and Cayman governments have their reasons for covering up Tempura. For example, Mr. Bridger’s complaint names Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, Justice Henderson and Grand Court Justice Sir Peter Cresswell. An additional criminal complaint, also filed by Mr. Bridger, names former Governor Stuart Jack, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin and FCO advisor Larry Covington. That complaint resides with Police Commissioner David Baines but, to date, remains unacted upon.
The governor’s office argues that releasing Mr. Bridger’s allegations would undermine public confidence in local judges. On the other hand, the information commissioner contends that what is really causing the harm is the “continuing secrecy” around Tempura and the related Operation Cealt.
We fully expect that the shroud over Tempura will eventually be lifted — perhaps not through the legal process but through the journalistic process. Frankly, too many reporters know far too much for the secrets to remain buried much longer.