Bridger: Met controlled Operation Tempura

From the outset of the ill-fated Operation Tempura corruption investigation until he departed the Cayman Islands in May 2009, retired U.K. lawman Martin Bridger was reporting directly to London’s Metropolitan Police Service and its then-second in command officer, Assistant Met Commissioner John Yates.  

The question of who was actually running the Tempura probe, which lasted more than two years and cost more than $10 million, has remained something of a mystery.  

However, as the operation’s former chief investigator, Mr. Bridger has revealed in court documents filed in the U.K. that his direct line of reporting in the matter never truly changed between March 2008 – when the corruption investigation was first made public in the Cayman Islands – and April 2009 when his contract ended.  

Cayman Islands authorities, attempting to stake their claim that Mr. Bridger was a special constable of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service during the Tempura investigation, have argued that he was ultimately responsible to the RCIPS commissioner or police. The commissioner, court records stated, and a number of U.K. Met police officers working on Tempura, reported to a strategic oversight group former by government.  

Minutes of meetings from that group have shown Mr. Bridger and other officers attending meetings of the group during 2007 and 2008, however, it seems from U.K. court records that Mr. Bridger never stopped reporting to Mr. Yates on Tempura matters, regardless of who was “in charge” locally.  

“Between approximately March 2008 [upon the suspension of former RCIPS Commissioner Stuart Kernohan] and November 2008, [Mr. Bridger] worked under the authority of, and reported to, the governor of the Cayman Islands and Assistant Commissioner John Yates of the Metropolitan Police,” the court filing revealed. “From November 2008 to 31 January, 2009, [Mr. Bridger] reported of the commissioner of the [RCIPS] and AC Yates. From 1 February, 2009, he reported to AC Yates [only].”  

Mr. Bridger’s statements in the U.K. court records are similar to those made in a case before the Cayman Islands Grand Court in 2012-2013. According to those records: “[it is contended] that Mr. Bridger, and those involved in the operation, were subject to the supervision of Assistant Commissioner Yates of the Metropolitan Police Service as lead reviewing officer.”  

The Cayman Islands court case revealed an email from Mr. Yates to former Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan sent on Sept. 4, 2007 – very early on in the Tempura probe – stating the following: “We both agreed that neither [Mr. Kernohan] nor the governor [of the Cayman Islands, Stuart Jack, at the time] were appropriate to undertake this task due to potential conflicts ….”  

Mr. Yates also wrote in the email of the importance of selecting a person with the appropriate experience and seniority who also did not have any conflicts in the matter.  

“We both recognize that the individual who is identified [to] undertake this role must be of sufficient seniority, experience and political acumen to be able to oversee the enquiry and manage whatever outcome emerges,” Mr. Yates wrote in the Sept. 4, 2007 email. “Once the above is resolved, an initial scoping will be undertaken as soon as possible by unidentified senior Metropolitan Police Service [officer] who has appropriate experience.”  

The Cayman Islands attorney general’s chambers obtained a separate affidavit from Mr. Yates in October 2012, more than four years later, in which he states that: “The immediate line of management [for Operation Tempura] was to the Senior Investigating Officer [Mr. Bridger], who, through the strategic oversight group reported and was responsible to the commissioner of the RCIPS.  

“The commissioner of the RCIPS was responsible and accountable in law for the overall management and outcome of the investigation.”  

The local strategic oversight group, first run by then-Chief Secretary George McCarthy, is not mentioned in Mr. Bridger’s filings with the U.K. High Court of Justice last week.  

The Cayman Islands court records also detailed statements from at least three members of Mr. Bridger’s investigative team revealing their belief that the Operation Tempura investigation team was reporting to the U.K. Metropolitan Police.  

Mr. Yates was forced out of the U.K. Met police in 2011, quitting as a result of a spreading phone hacking scandal in the United Kingdom.  

Mr. Yates was the police official who decided in 2009 not to reopen a police inquiry into the U.K. phone hacking and alleged police bribery by journalists with the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World. Mr. Yates said at the time he did not believe there was any new evidence to consider in the case. He acknowledged in a hearing before Parliament later on that the decision was a mistake.  

John-Yates

Mr. Yates
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2 COMMENTS

  1. You have to read this story in the context of the overall investigation and with some understanding of the rank and reporting systems of both the RCIPS and the UK police.
    First of all, AC Yates was not ‘second in command of the Metropolitan Police’ – This rank is third in command, reporting to the Deputy Commissioner and, ultimately, the Commissioner of Police.
    In order to have any investigative powers in Cayman, Bridger and his team would have needed to have been sworn in as Special Constables in the RCIPS. This puts them directly under the command of the Commissioner of Police, firstly Stuart Kernohan and, following his suspension, under Temporary Acting Commissioner Smith. In law this is the only true supervision of the Tempura Team’s activities.
    Because of there nature of the inquiry, the Governor will have been conscious that this inquiry began by looking at alleged issues involving a high ranking RCIPS officer, therefore, keeping it some distance from this normal reporting structure would have been useful. The Special Constabulary appointments would be simply to provide the necessary investigative powers in the Islands and once Kernohan was suspended there would be no reason to suspect Smith would have any involvement so they should have reported directly to him.
    This is where the oversight committee, Larry Covington – the FCO’s advisor based in Miami and AC Yates comes in. If this had been a straightforward internal investigation that needed outside help then Kernohan should have been the person to control it. If there were deeper and wider suspicions, or (Conspiracy Alert) the powers that be wanted to ensure that it didn’t go too far in exposing corruption in the Islands and damaging the Island’s financial reputation, then this would explain their involvement.
    What I suspect has happened here is that Bridger may have felt he had few ‘friends’ in Cayman therefore he increasingly relied on support from his reviewing officer, Yates.
    So, this reporting to Yates will be typical Met Police ‘ keep it in the family’ with Yates, no doubt, enjoying frequent visits to the sunny Caribbean and his ‘pal’ Bridger being the source of so much ‘hospitality’.
    If I was inclined, I might ask how many visits Yates made to Cayman and how much these visits cost (business class and better hotels?), when these visits took place as this might add something to Bridger’s claims in these court documents, and finally, who came with him and who paid for them – were they colleagues or family members…….)
    Finally, experience tells us that Yates had a habit of being a little slapdash when it came to investigations and his post retirement work being apologist for Bahrain’s human rights abuses no doubt well paid, leaves him with little credibility.
    Therefore, if Bridger was reporting only to Yates, he must have been aware of the issues that he and Evans claim only came to their attention later, and it does his case no good.
    But hey, we will see.

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  2. Thanks John, I was going to refrain from posting a comment but you just opened the door for me.

    As far as we can determine Yates made five visits to Grand Cayman and, as his rank entitled him to, flew business class. As for dates? I can confirm he flew over on June 14 or 15 2008 with representatives from the private consultants. His Staff Officer, Dean Haydon who is another ex-CIB3 officer, apparently flew over at least twice. Many of the Tempura team also used business class to protect their cover as businessmen. This was removed from the final 2009 audit report but thanks to FOI I have a copy of the earlier drafts and I also know who demanded that it was removed.

    As far as the history of the chain of command is concerned for legal reasons all I can post here is a simple statement that material in my possession (two emails from one of the investigators on contract to CIG) directly contradicts Mr Bridger’s statement that on 1 February 2009 control of the investigation was transferred from Commissioner Smith to AC Yates.

    I have no idea where this is all currently heading but as you say – we will see.

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