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 Bridger in early July, but that he did not attend the interview and had withdrawn his criminal complaint in any case.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.
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.