Bridger: ‘Someone … is not telling the truth.’
The people of the Cayman Islands not only deserve to know how much money was spent on Operation Tempura, they also have the right to know exactly what happened and why, panelists agreed at the OffshoreAlert conference in Miami this week.
Martin Bridger, the former senior investigating officer of Operation Tempura, said he was made a “scapegoat” over the corruption investigation, which ultimately produced no results but generated significant costs.
Mr. Bridger said information about the investigations into police misconduct had been continually misrepresented by the media and public officials.
“Much of the commentary was inaccurate and perhaps motivated by the desire to bring about a premature end to ongoing investigations,” he said.
He claimed he may face losing his family home in the U.K. as a result of a CI$300,000 legal bill presented to him by the Cayman Islands government. The attorney general successfully sued Mr. Bridger in an attempt to force the return of Operation Tempura records that were in the former investigator’s possession.
Mr. Bridger argued that he needed the documents to defend a civil claim by former Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, in which Mr. Bridger is the only remaining defendant after former Governor Stuart Jack and former Police Commissioner James Smith were dropped from the suit in 2011.
“I am unrepresented and financially penalized. It is my opinion that the Cayman Islands and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office need to take a long hard look at themselves and stop using me as a scapegoat,” Mr. Bridger said.
“It seems clear to me that someone, whether it be Kernohan or [former Chief Supt. John] Jones or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is not telling the truth.”
One way to determine what happened would be a public inquiry, he suggested.
This was echoed by former Cayman Net News reporter John Evans, who became a focus of investigations into whether senior police officers had authorized an unlawful entry into the offices of the late Desmond Seales, who was publisher of Cayman Net News newspaper.
Mr. Evans said he had developed serious concerns about how Operation Tempura was conducted and overseen, but he had been “stonewalled” by the Metropolitan Police, the RCIPS and particularly the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the governor’s office.
Of particular concern were the lack of results produced by the operation and spiraling costs of legal fees and settlements and the use of private consultants. In the wrongful dismissal suit of Stuart Kernohan, the attorney general’s office could have settled much sooner at a fraction of litigation costs that were ultimately incurred, he noted.
Mr. Evans sided with Mr. Bridger in calling for a public inquiry and demanded a forensic audit of the operation since there was evidence that the initial audit had been misled and information had been withheld.
Former auditor general Dan Duguay, who carried out a financial audit of Operation Tempura in 2009, and was also a panelist at Tuesday’s conference, lamented the lack of information in relation to the investigation.
“I was doing an audit of Operation Tempura in the middle of it because nobody was given any information about what the heck was going on,” Mr. Duguay said. While the governor of the Cayman Islands, as a representative of the U.K. started the operation, the residents of the Cayman Islands had to pay for it. “What did they pay for so far? Nobody knows,” he said.
The auditor general’s office, which had carried out an audit of Operation Tempura, had tallied $5.7 million in operational expenses between September 2007 and January 2009, in addition to the $1.275 million settlement with Judge Alex Henderson over his unlawful arrest in September 2008.
But these figures do not include legal expenses, which according to a Caymanian Compass open records request amount to $1.8 million since 2008, operational expenses since 2009, or the amounts paid by government in settlements with Rudy Dixon, Burmon Scott and, most recently, Mr. Kernohan.
Mr. Duguay questioned whether public funds paid in settlements should be subject to confidentiality agreements and kept secret from the public. ”Why is this secret? Why should it be secret?” he asked.
But costs are only one part of the determination, he said. In addition, people needed to understand what was done and why.
Information relating to Mr. Bridger’s complaint to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office against members of the Cayman Islands judiciary has not been released by the governor. Former Governor Duncan Taylor called the allegations “unfounded” but refused to release a 185-page evaluation report of the matter by U.K. attorney Benjamin Aina, QC.
A ruling by the information commissioner to release the report was subsequently challenged by the governor, and in November last year the Grand Court sent the case back to the information commissioner’s office for re-evaluation, where it remains as yet undecided.
Legal questions aside, Mr. Duguay said he was struck by the question of what was so important that it needed to be kept secret.
“The other panelists have called for a public inquiry. I certainly support that,” Mr. Duguay said, adding that there is a lot of information missing. “People have the right to know and they have a need to know.”