Operation Tempura allegations turn ugly

Former investigator targeted

Allegations of crime, cover-ups and lying flew from all sides involved in the Operation Tempura corruption investigation debacle this week as the probe continued to force itself into the Cayman Islands and U.K. media.  

The Cayman Compass learned this week that Tempura’s former senior investigating officer, Martin Bridger, had become the subject of three separate matters involving either criminal allegations, complaints to police or contempt-of-court related allegations over the case.  

Meanwhile, accusations surfaced in the international media – based on earlier allegations of crime made by Mr. Bridger to the U.K. Metropolitan Police – that the Cayman Islands law enforcement apparatus was attempting to cover up the extent of U.K. officials’ involvement in the Operation Tempura investigation. Mr. Bridger’s allegations, which were later made to the RCIPS and supported by former Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and former Chief Superintendent John Jones, were dismissed by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service following an investigation completed earlier this year.  

Neither Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick, Police Commissioner David Baines, or Attorney General Samuel Bulgin had responded to the public accusations of a cover-up by press time Thursday. 

A statement from the RCIPS issued last week evaluated claims made by Mr. Bridger that former Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack, Attorney General Bulgin and U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office adviser Larry Covington deceived Mr. Bridger and his investigators about the extent of their involvement in the Tempura probe. In addition to stating that no criminal offenses had occurred, the RCIPS noted that “counter allegations” of criminal conduct had been made in relation to Mr. Bridger’s “account and publishing of data within the media.”  

The RCIPS statement did not reveal the specific nature of the counter allegations. However, defamation – the act of making untrue allegations in a public forum against an individual – is a crime under the Cayman Islands Penal Code.  

For his part, Mr. Bridger questioned how the RCIPS could have completed any substantive investigation without interviewing him first. Police said arrangements had been made to speak with Mr. Bridger in early July, but that he did not attend the interview and had withdrawn his criminal complaint in any case.  

“At the heart of my reasoning to withdraw my criminal allegation is that, 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 …,” Mr. Bridger said in a statement to the Compass.  

Apart from the counter allegations of criminality, the Compass has learned that contempt of court allegations were made against Mr. Bridger in connection with a civil lawsuit filed against the retired U.K. lawman by former Police Commissioner Kernohan.  

The allegations apparently stem from a public appearance by Mr. Bridger in early May at the annual Offshore Alert conference in Miami where he and other panelists discussed various events related to the Operation Tempura investigation. The Compass contacted the other two panelists involved in the discussion, former Cayman Islands Auditor General Dan Duguay and Operation Tempura witness John Evans. Neither indicated that they had been served with notice of any contempt allegations.  

Mr. Bridger declined to comment on the contempt issue when contacted about it by the newspaper.  

Mr. Evans, meanwhile, filed a complaint with the U.K. Metropolitan Police force in London concerning a third matter – Mr. Bridger’s receipt in 2011 of more than $200,000 from the former Metropolitan Police Authority to assist with his legal defense in a U.K. court action filed against him by the Cayman Islands attorney general’s office.  

According to reports in the U.K. press, Mr. Bridger has received approval recently for additional funds, totaling in excess of $300,000, from the London Mayor’s Office of Crime and Policing to assist in his defense of the court action.  

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Fiona Taylor responded to Mr. Evans’s complaint in a letter sent July 30: “I have now had the opportunity to consider your correspondence dated July 8, 2013 and have decided that it is suitable to be assessed as a complaint.”  

Ms. Taylor indicated the U.K. Met’s directorate of professional standards would review the allegations made by the former Tempura witness and respond in due course.  

‘Life ruined’ 

Speaking to the Compass via email on Thursday, Mr. Bridger said that his life had been ruined by the constant allegations and that he, his wife and three daughters were “so tired” of matters surrounding the fallout from Operation Tempura.  

The retired lawman dismissed the accusation by Mr. Evans regarding funding for legal assistance he had received as “outright lies” that would be dealt with by the Metropolitan Police. 

Mr. Bridger said he was also surprised by what he termed a lack of political support for him from local elected members of the Cayman Islands government, including for his recent calls supporting a reinvestigation of Tempura issues.  

“It is the Cayman government [that] has paid all the monies to [Grand Court Justice Alexander] Henderson [in a $1.275 million court settlement related to the judge’s 2008 arrest by Mr. Bridger’s investigators],” Mr. Bridger said. “Can they not see that they have paid this money all because I may have been misled?  

“I have been made the scapegoat and that is what the public and your government should be told.”  

Governor Kilpatrick has said that while she would not rule out a separate enquiry into the events of Tempura, the “time was not right” for such a review with related matters still pending before the courts.  

Martin-Bridger

Mr. Bridger

Baines

Mr. Baines

Sam-Bulgin

Mr. Bulgin
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6 COMMENTS

  1. It seems like the only was to settle these matters is with an independent outside investigation. There seems to be a suggestion that the RCIPS, FCO, and the governors office are not in a position to conduct a credible investigation so an independent outside entity is needed if the country is ever going to be able to put these matters to rest.
    It is unfair to former Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack, Attorney General Bulgin and U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office adviser Larry Covington that these matters still remain outstanding and if an independent outside investigation is what is needed then let’s get that done so that these gentlemen can move on with their lives.

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  2. Is this story correct? Is Bridger seriously complaining that the RCIPS failed to investigate a complaint that he had withdrawn? I just hope the Commissioner sends him a bill for wasting police resources, including the cost of setting up the interview he failed to attend.

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  3. Thank you Mack, that’s exactly what I’ve been calling for over the past four years. What we need is a public tribunal to investigate what did and didn’t happen. Taking aside the obvious objections from the FCO there are a couple of problems with this. The first is simply that at least one of the other interested parties doesn’t like the public aspect. They want another secret investigation, preferably undertaken by their former colleagues – effectively Tempura 2. But the most serious issue is that in the last 18 months it has become blatantly obvious that any public inquiry is, as you can see in quotes used in this story, likely to quickly degenerate into a mud-slinging exercise. If there is a public inquiry it has to go back to day one and work from there not pick up five years of complaints and counter-complaints then try to make sense of them all.

    I have some sympathy with Martin Bridger. After all it wasn’t strictly his operation but so far the only contribution by the person in overall charge, John Yates, that I have seen sided with the Attorney General during the arguments over ownership of documents last November. He has literally been left holding the baby although I would stop short of saying he’s a scapegoat – yesterday I reviewed the October 2008 Cresswell ruling for a pending news story here and even nearly six years down the road it remains a damning indictment of Tempura.

    Having admitted some understanding for his position, I do find it strange that he is currently accusing the RCIPS of a cover up. In the past he has been perfectly happy to support that same organisation when it buried, along with several other Tempura-related matters, my complaint to the PSU in 2011. Check out – http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2011/02/09/RCIPS-punts-on-Tempura-complaint/

    Guess he understands how I feel now?

    As for my complaints to the Met, they currently do not actually directly involve Mr Bridger’s funding but tackle matters relating to the way a previous complaint was handled and I suspect he knows that. What I find odd is that now chooses to describe any of my complaints, which were independently assessed before being submitted to the Met, as outright lies. On 14 May 2014 I received an email from him relating to his latest funding request that simply asked me to retract them. This is the first time he has tried to accuse me of lying.

    Finally, OffshoreAlert. Back in January I was warned by two legally-qualified sources that this could happen so it’s no surprise to me.

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  4. I agree with previous comments calling for an independent investigation into the Operation Tempura allegations to, hopefully, bring an end to this unfortunate incidence which has seriously tarnished the good reputation of the Cayman Islands. In view of the alleged involvement and possible conflict of interest of certain senior officials in the Cayman Islands Government, and FCO Officials, it is doubtful that any combination of this group would be seen to have sufficient credibility to reach an honest and objective resolution that would be acceptable to the people of these Islands. Thus the need for an unquestionably independent investigation, with the understanding, however, that all costs connected with such an exercise will be borne by those (the British Government)who are directly responsible for Operation Tempura –not the people of the Cayman Islands. This whole debacle was allegedly brought about by a former Cayman Islands Governor, which Operation was/is still supported by the FCO. Further, in the interest of fairness and good governance, it is high time that the veil of secrecy is removed from this insidious scourge which has, for too long, damaged the good image of the Cayman Islands. Although the Cayman Islands Government has to date spent millions of our taxpayers money on Operation Tempura, the powers that be refuse to let us know how these millions of dollars were spent. It is therefore incumbent upon this Government to ensure that this matter is expeditiously resolved in the best interest of these Islands.

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