Tables turn on former Operation Tempura investigator
Allegations that a former Cayman Islands governor, the attorney general and a Florida-based adviser with the British foreign office lied to investigators about their level of involvement in the ill-fated Operation Tempura corruption probe are unfounded, according to a statement released Friday by the Royal Cayman Islands Police service.
The police statement indicated allegations made against the three men by former Operation Tempura Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger had been “fully investigated” and no criminal conduct was proved to have occurred.
“The Commissioner [of Police David Baines] has written to the three individuals [ex-Governor Stuart Jack, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin and Foreign and Commonwealth Office adviser Larry Covington] and informed them that no further action is warranted and no offenses revealed,” the police statement, issued by RCIPS Chief Inspector Raymond Christian, noted.
The Cayman Compass contacted Mr. Bridger Sunday for a response to the developments.
“I made the allegation of crime in good faith, after being supported by the [U.K.] Metropolitan Police Service,” Mr. Bridger said. “An investigation does not and should not make judgements of guilt or innocence. I have never sought to do that in respect of Mr. Jack, Mr. Covington or the attorney general.”
According to the RCIPS statement, Mr. Bridger, on July 3, had written to Commissioner Baines and current Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick indicating he no longer wished to pursue his criminal complaint, which was filed with the RCIPS in January.
“That withdrawal occurred after arrangements had been made to interview Mr. Bridger in London, during which interview he had indicated he would provide additional evidence,” the RCIPS statement read. “Mr. Bridger did not attend the interview, nor did he provide any additional evidence.”
Mr. Bridger has previously indicated that he had little confidence in the RCIPS being able to conduct a proper criminal investigation into his claims as the police organization was the original entity targeted in Operation Tempura. He reiterated that position on Sunday.
“Due to circumstances which have occurred over the last year, my advisers and I were left in a position where we had no confidence in the RCIPS investigating these difficult and complex issues in the spirit of openness and transparency whereby the search for the truth, wherever it may lay, would be uppermost in the mind of any investigator.”
The retired U.K. lawman also noted that it was “misleading” for local police to state his allegations had been “fully investigated” when he had not been seen by police investigators.
“After nine months of trying to see [Commissioner Baines], arrangements were eventually made to meet with me,” Mr. Bridger said. “On two occasions prior to the proposed meeting, I wrote to the commissioner telling him that I would not be attending the meeting. He did not acknowledge either of those communications.”
The RCIPS statement also noted that Mr. Bridger could be in some legal trouble because of his allegations against the former governor, the attorney general and foreign office adviser.
“Whilst the criminal allegations made by Mr. Bridger failed, were unsupported and unproved after analysis of all of the available evidence, it is correct to say that his account and publishing of data within the media led to counter allegations of criminal conduct being made in relation to his conduct,” the police statement read.
“Those allegations remain under investigation and are subject to continued inquiry. The interview in London was intended to address all aspects of allegations made by and against Mr. Bridger.”
The police service did not specify who made the counter allegations against Mr. Bridger.
Mr. Bridger said there would come a time when he would have to be interviewed as part of the RCIPS investigation.
“I would be prepared to surrender myself for interview in the Cayman Islands, at a mutually agreed time, because that would then allow me to share some of the evidence which the commissioner has not seen in making his assessment and justify why I originally made the allegation of crime.”
In 2013, Mr. Bridger lodged a formal allegation with the U.K. Met police claiming that “very senior Crown servants” lied to him during the course of the nearly two-year corruption probe that became known as Operation Tempura, thereby drawing out what otherwise would have been a quick investigation. Senior officers with the U.K. Metropolitan police said it was their view that the criminal allegations Mr. Bridger made against former Cayman Islands Governor Jack, current Attorney General Bulgin and Mr. Covington should be looked into further. All three men have previously denied any wrongdoing in connection with the Tempura probe.
U.K. Metropolitan Police Commander Allan Gibson said in May that while there was enough information to pursue an investigation into Mr. Bridger’s claims, the U.K. Met Police Service would find itself “conflicted” in conducting such an investigation.
The accusations against the three men were made to the RCIPS this year by Mr. Bridger and have now been determined to be unfounded.
Mr. Bulgin told the Compass that he viewed Mr. Bridger’s allegations as “extremely defamatory,” given that separate court reviews of the matter by Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, U.K. Lord Chief Justice Alan Moses and then-visiting Judge Sir Peter Cresswell had all criticized one aspect or another of the Operation Tempura investigation as conducted by Mr. Bridger and/or his one-time legal adviser Martin Polaine.
“This is yet another scandalous move in an ongoing campaign by Mr. Bridger,” Mr. Bulgin said in a statement issued last year. “Not only do I strongly deny, but also resent any assertions of my being untruthful to the Tempura investigators. There is not a shred of independent or contemporaneous evidence to support such a scurrilous claim and, to the contrary, the documents from that time demonstrate conclusively that the allegation is not true.
“It is remarkable that Mr. Bridger’s one-sided and inaccurate account of events, which are to his own entire discredit, should have been thought worthy of further investigation.”
Mr. Covington has called Mr. Bridger’s claims “malicious accusations,” while former Governor Jack called the claims completely baseless. The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also said that Mr. Covington “had no operational role” in the Tempura investigation. “It is high time for [Mr. Bridger] to be held accountable for his irresponsible and damaging behavior,” former Governor Jack told the Compass.