Operation Tempura: A saga seemingly without end

The British, we all know, love their afternoon tea parties, but the narrative we continue to hear from the Governor’s Office on Operation Tempura might make more sense in the context of the “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

Readers may recall that at the Mad Hatter’s affair, insolvable riddles – “Why is a raven like a writing desk”? – were put forth as reasonable conversation and the meanings of words were meaningless.
In the Mad Hatter’s world, “transparency” and “opacity” might well be synonyms.

Upon assuming her role as governor, Helen Kilpatrick said she welcomed commitments from the Cayman Islands to boost transparency in its financial services sector. However, the only thing quintessentially transparent with the never-ending Operation Tempura debacle is the lack of transparency.

Let us explain:

On Monday, Mrs. Kilpatrick issued a statement in response to Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers’s order to release records sought under a Freedom of Information request relating to the ill-fated Operation Tempura investigation.

Although the Governor’s Office has unsuccessfully fought the required release of the documents – which were requested in 2012 – through the courts once before, Mrs. Kilpatrick said she has sought leave for judicial review of Mr. Liebaers’s ruling, an action which will likely take several more months and untold thousands of dollars to pursue.

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There are several aspects of Mrs. Kilpatrick’s decision that are troubling, starting with the fact that she waited until the last possible day before announcing she was putting the matter back before the court.

The language used by Mrs. Kilpatrick in her short statement on Monday suggested she was unsure whether there were any real reasons to withhold the information, using phrases such as “I believe” and “I am concerned” in relation to possible impacts on pending court cases and court orders as her justification for not releasing the documents.

We would hope that Mrs. Kilpatrick has sought legal advice on such matters to ensure that her beliefs and concerns were legally, not personally, warranted.

She also said she was concerned that releasing the information was not in the public interest.
Considering that Operation Tempura has cost the taxpayers of the Cayman Islands more than $10 million, ended careers, led to false arrests and still presents a number of unanswered questions, we don’t see how anyone could contend that it wouldn’t have been in the public’s interest to know more about what really happened in this saga.

Instead of leading by example when it comes to transparency, Mrs. Kilpatrick and her FCO associates have sent us off on yet another horse for another long ride through yet another legal labyrinth.

Everyone even remotely knowledgeable about the Tempura case already knows it was, to use an appropriate British term, a right royal cock-up. The proof is apparent in the court settlements that have already been paid to Justice Alex Henderson, former Commissioner of Police Stuart Kernohan, and former RCIPS officers Rudy Dixon and Burmon Scott.

What’s more, the endless investigation did not lead to a single conviction; it damaged the reputation of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service; and it harmed the international reputation of the Cayman Islands. Seven years later, aspects of Tempura still hover over the country like a dark cloud.

It is time the Governor’s Office truly exhibits transparency on this issue no matter how bad it might look, so that everyone can put this unfortunate episode in U.K.-Cayman Islands relations behind them.

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  1. Sadly, one problem both the FCO and the Governor’s office are having to contend with when making decisions like this is the continual mud-slinging coming from one particular direction.
    Looking at this from the perspective of the FCO they must be wondering how much more of this nonsense is on its way and how much worse things might get if the Aina report and the complaint that prompted it are released.
    While this is not a point of view I support for one second I do understand it. The prospect of handing something as sensitive as the Aina report over to the public, some of whom will clearly descend on it like a pack of hyenas simply looking for all the juicy bits, cannot be taken lightly.
    Ever since the Henderson arrest nearly six years one thing that has typified the tactics of one of those involved in Tempura at the highest level has been the selective use (more accurately misuse) of official records. If you go back to May last year there is a very well balanced story in this publication that clearly demonstrates the problems. In fact despite promises from the individual concerned that dispute still remains unresolved 18 months later.
    As the original FOI applicant and appellant I firmly believe that the Aina report and the Bridger/Polaine complaint should be released. At the same time I am forced to wonder whether, if the documents are going to be misused by less responsible sections of the media, it will end up doing more harm than good.

  2. What we need to understand is that there are protected groups of people that will never be held accountable for their actions. Such is the relationship between the UK and the Cayman Islands and we need to understand that this is part of the price that we pay to maintain that relationship.
    There are many UK citizens that have contributed significantly to the success of the Cayman Islands and the approach that is being taken by the UK to undermine the financial services sector in the Cayman Islands will not only negatively impact Caymanians but will also impact the many hard working UK citizens that have been essential to our success (especially in decades past). Many of these people have come to love Cayman and have made Cayman their new home.