Governor: ‘Time not right’ for Tempura inquiry

While she did not entirely rule out the possibility, Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick said Tuesday that ongoing legal proceedings over the ill-fated Operation Tempura investigation make it unlikely that her office would authorize a new public inquiry into the matter anytime soon.

Moreover, Governor Kilpatrick questioned what such an inquiry might reveal beyond what is already known about the case, which was a two-year long, $10 million-plus investigation into police corruption in the Cayman Islands. The investigation ended with no criminal convictions of anyone for anything, but related probes ended in the firing or forced retirement of six Royal Cayman Islands Police officers for reasons that have never been made public.

“I firmly believe in openness and transparency and reject any allegations of a cover up by former [Cayman Islands] governors or the [U.K.] Foreign and Commonwealth Office in relation to Operation Tempura,” the governor told the Cayman Compass. “I am aware of the calls for a public inquiry. I am skeptical, however, given both the cost to date of Operation Tempura and associated legal action to Caymanian and British taxpayers, that another investigation would be a good use of public funds.”

The Compass recently reported that government had spent more than $3 million fighting off legal actions and open records requests related to Tempura, inclusive of a $1.275 million lawsuit settlement paid to Grand Court Judge Alexander Henderson over his wrongful arrest in connection with the investigation in September 2008. The $3 million does not include whatever was paid to Former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, Former Deputy Commissioner Rudolph Dixon or retired RCIPS Inspector Burmon Scott in their respective settlements with the government.

Former Auditor General Dan Duguay reported that the initial Tempura investigation between September 2007 and January 2009 spent $5.7 million. He also estimated another $1.1 million was spent between February and June 2009 on the continuing case. Subsequent investigations and court trials related to Operation Tempura and its spin-off Operation Cealt have never been assessed for costs.

The governor’s statement regarding U.K. taxpayer expenditures referred to staff time spent on the matter by foreign office employees both here and in London.

The ongoing legal proceedings referred to by the governor involve a lawsuit filed by ex-Commissioner Kernohan against Operation Tempura’s Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger. Mr. Kernohan also sued the Cayman Islands government, but that case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum in March.

Mr. Bridger said last week that he had no indication from Mr. Kernohan’s attorneys as to whether the suit against him is being pursued.

The governor’s comment about a U.K. “cover up” relate to statements made during a conference earlier this month in Miami by both Mr. Bridger and former Operation Tempura prosecution witness John Evans that implicated senior British officials who they said were directing Tempura behind the scenes.

During the Offshore Alert Conference held May 4-6 in South Beach, Miami, 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. “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.

“It seems clear to me that someone, whether it be Kernohan or [former RCIPS Chief Supt. John] Jones or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is not telling the truth.”

Mr. Evans said he had developed serious concerns about how Operation Tempura was conducted and overseen, but he had been “stonewalled” by the U.K. Metropolitan Police, the RCIPS and particularly the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the governor’s office.

The two men were joined by Mr. Duguay and former Cayman Islands Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks in calling for a public inquiry into the events of Operation Tempura.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The time will never be right for a Tempura inquiry.

    The truth that nobody wants to acknowledge is that some people and groups are above the law and that there is nothing that Caymanians can do to get justice of value for money spent when it comes to some groups and individuals.

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  2. Fair comment from Governor Kilpatrick but I think the issues compromising a public inquiry go a bit further than just outstanding legal actions.

    Based on the two stories that appeared in the Cayman Islands media last week and some of the comments made in Miami there seems to be a great danger that any inquiry will simply degenerate into little more than a very expensive mud-slinging contest.

    One of the problems with reviewing Operation Tempura is that very early on in the investigation I clearly saw the line between fact and fiction starting to get blurred. If you want to be polite you might excuse it as mission creep but the fact is that some of those involved were, and still are, painting a completely false picture of what was going on. There are many examples of this I could cite but possibly the most obvious is what happened to the 2009 audit where significant facts were withheld from an Auditor General who was also forced to change the contents of his draft report in ways that misled the public about where some of the money went.

    Another problem is the passage of time. Tempura, or Cealt as it was finally known, started in August 2007 and ended in March 2010 when the outstanding investigations were handed over to RCIPS. Since then a lot has happened, including the forced retirement of the senior Met officer who oversaw the operation and the death of Desmond Seales. The harsh reality of life is that it will probably prove impossible to force, as has been suggested, all the relevant witnesses to attend something that is little more than an internal inquiry into what went wrong. In fact I have now been advised that calling it a ‘Public Inquiry’ is probably misleading because nothing that happened before, during or after Tempura/Cealt remotely meets the accepted criteria for this option.

    There are also serious questions about what could, or could not, be used in evidence at an inquiry. According to RCIPS and the Met the records from the early Tempura investigation are no longer available. Other records appear to have been removed from the accepted chain of custody so there are now documents surfacing that might simply be inadmissible. If there was an inquiry would it be preceded by months or years of expensive legal arguments over the validity of evidence? Based on recent events I think we can safely say it would.

    An inquiry might be very cathartic for some of those involved because they could vent their anger on people who they see as having put them at a disadvantage but would it achieve anything? After seeing so much effort being made by some of the major players to muddy the waters I am tempted to suggest it will not.

    However, there is a much cheaper option that comes well within the experience of the current Governor and that is to complete the 2009 audit of Tempura/Cealt. Although this time it would be a forensic audit rather than value-for-money this is still an in-house operation that should be within the scope of the Auditor General’s Office. I realise it is not a completely cost-free option but it would deal with most of the major issues without getting bogged down in personality clashes and unproductive arguments. And who knows, it might even finally uncover some genuine wrong-doing?

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