Cayman officials fighting ‘Tempura’ in UK high court

Bridger again in Cayman crosshairs

Top officials representing the Cayman Islands government, including Police Commissioner David Baines, were before the United Kingdom’s High Court of Justice last week fighting a legal challenge over the ill-fated Operation Tempura police corruption investigation of 2007-2009.

The Cayman Islands government was thought to have finally settled all legal issues surrounding a 2009 lawsuit filed against it by former Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan in the wake of the Tempura probe. That settlement, for an undisclosed amount, was announced in March in a joint statement from Mr. Kernohan’s lawyers and the government’s lawyers.

Local attorney Doug Schofield, representing the attorney general’s chambers, also appeared before the U.K. High Court last week with Mr. Baines, seeking ultimately to force Operation Tempura’s former chief investigator, retired U.K. lawman Martin Bridger, to hand over certain records the Cayman government believes he still possesses related to the Tempura investigation. Mr. Bridger, who is being sued by Mr. Kernohan over what the former RCIPS chief said was his wrongful firing in 2008, has said he needs to retain certain documents to defend himself against the Kernohan lawsuit.

The Kernohan lawsuit settlement in March applied only to the Cayman Islands government, not to Mr. Bridger, who is being sued personally.

It is understood that Cayman Islands government representatives filed a claim form with the U.K. court in May 2012 demanding that Mr. Bridger return certain records still in his possession.

According to Mr. Bridger, the argument before the U.K. High Court concerned whether he would be allowed to present a defense regarding the return of the records. A separate court ruling in Grand Cayman last year indicated that most of the documentation Mr. Bridger held was either irrelevant to his defense of the Kernohan lawsuit or legally privileged information which did not belong to him. The High Court ruled last week that the retired U.K. Metropolitan Police officer would be allowed to present a defense in the documents retrieval matter.

The statement of defense filed by Mr. Bridger last week has been obtained by the Cayman Compass.

In it, Mr. Bridger identifies two “hard copy” records he acknowledges to have kept after his departure from the Cayman Islands in May 2009. All of the other records, whether electronic or paper copies, have since been returned to the Cayman Islands government or were “lost” by a U.K. attorney they were given to, the statement of defense maintains. Mr. Bridger said Saturday that he still has copies of certain Tempura-related documents, but understood – via a letter he received in July 2012 – that the Cayman government had allowed him to keep those for purposes of the Kernohan lawsuit defense.

“[Mr. Bridger] retains one of the two hard copy documents he took away from the Cayman Islands [that has not been returned],” the statement of defense reads. “That document is a report written by [Mr. Bridger] for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the purpose of which was to draw to the FCO’s attention for its consideration concerns [Mr. Bridger] had about the actions of a FCO employee named Mr. Covington in the discharge of his duties as law enforcement adviser for the Caribbean Overseas Territories. “[Mr. Bridger] intended to discuss the report with [former] Assistant Commissioner [John] Yates of the Metropolitan Police. [Mr. Bridger] had previously showed the document to the [former] Acting Commissioner of the RCIPS, Mr. Smith, who told the defendant not to provide it to the FCO.”

The “Mr. Covington” referred to in the statement of defense is Larry Covington, a U.K. foreign office Miami-based employee who was involved in the early stages as an overseer in the Tempura investigation. Mr. Bridger has filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Covington over Operation Tempura, claiming that he was lied to by the FCO official and others regarding their level of involvement in the probe. Both Mr. Covington and the FCO have denied all such allegations by Mr. Bridger.

The individual to whom Mr. Bridger filed the criminal complaint regarding Mr. Covington is David Baines, the RCIPS commissioner and the registered “claimant” before the U.K. High Court – essentially the Cayman Islands government representative now seeking to force Mr. Bridger to return the records he holds.

The other “hard copy” record, which Mr. Bridger said he no longer has, was a report the former Operation Tempura chief submitted to the attorney general regarding the arrest of a local Grand Court justice in 2008. The Cayman Compass submitted an open records request for that record in 2010, but then-Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert refused to order its release.

As for a number of other Tempura-related records, the statement of defense continues: “[Mr. Bridger] admits that by December 2010 he held a large volume of documents relating to Operation Tempura. Many of these documents had been voluntarily and willingly provided to [Mr. Bridger] by [the attorney general] in 2010…”

“[Mr. Bridger] has, in any event, provided to the claimants [the RCIPS commissioner and the attorney general] all documents relating to Operation Tempura that have been in his possession, save for those provided to him voluntarily by the [attorney general] and those which are the subject of his disclosure in the [Kernohan lawsuit]…”

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