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.