Operation Tempura lawsuit finally ends
Former Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan confirmed Friday that he had withdrawn his lawsuit against the former head of the Operation Tempura police corruption investigation, nearly six years after the writ was filed.
Citing “unforeseen developments” since he began legal proceedings against former Tempura Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger, Mr. Kernohan said in a statement that he had agreed to withdraw the lawsuit due to those developments and “other factors.”
“In particular, I appreciate the detrimental impact that legal proceedings [have] on the families involved and this has been a major fact[or] in my decision to bring this to an end,” Mr. Kernohan said. “My sincere gratitude goes out to everyone that has assisted me throughout this period.”
Mr. Kernohan, who was fired from the commissioner’s job in late 2008 following a criminal probe led by Mr. Bridger in which he was never charged and from which he was eventually exonerated, initially named a number of parties in the May 2009 wrongful termination lawsuit. Those parties included the Cayman Islands government, former territorial Governor Stuart Jack, former Acting RCIPS Commissioner James Smith and Mr. Bridger. Mr. Jack and Mr. Smith were removed from the lawsuit in 2011 by decision of a U.K. High Court judge. In March 2014, the Cayman Islands government and Mr. Kernohan agreed to settle the lawsuit out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Mr. Bridger was excluded from the 2014 settlement, leaving him alone to defend himself. In addition to that lawsuit, Mr. Bridger also faced – between 2012 and 2014 – various claims made by the Cayman Islands government in local courts and in the U.K. alleging that he had improperly taken legally privileged official documents related to the Operation Tempura investigation. An agreement regarding those records was reached earlier this year in the Cayman Islands Grand Court.
Mr. Bridger was initially called to the Cayman Islands in September 2007 to investigate allegations of a “corrupt relationship” between RCIPS Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis and local newspaper publisher Desmond Seales. Mr. Bridger’s investigative team said they quickly disproved those accusations, which included claims that Mr. Ennis was privately divulging details of sensitive police operations to Mr. Seales who, in turn, passed that information along to his contacts at Northward Prison.
The investigation that became known as Operation Tempura focused on the efforts of Mr. Kernohan and former RCIPS Superintendent John Jones in directing a covert search of Mr. Seales’s office at Cayman Net News on Sept. 3, 2007. That probe led to the removal of both senior officers and a third man, RCIPS Deputy Commissioner Rudi Dixon, from their positions. None of the three was ever convicted of any criminal activity. Messrs. Jones and Kernohan were never arrested or charged with an offense. Mr. Dixon was acquitted during a criminal trial and eventually awarded a large settlement.
In a statement released last week, Mr. Bridger said that Mr. Kernohan “included me as a defendant to his proceedings as he had been misinformed as to my involvement in the matters [related to the 2009 lawsuit.]”
“In 2012, Mr. Kernohan and I became aware of facts that were previously unknown,” Mr. Bridger said. “My inclusion as a defendant in the Kernohan action gave rise to other court proceedings being brought against me both in the Cayman Islands and the U.K. These proceedings were brought by the attorney general of the Cayman Islands. These continue to cause the gravest stress and anxiety to my family and me, both financially and emotionally.
“I have suffered the indignity of the Cayman Islands government placing a financial charge on my family home and have been unable to have any post-retirement career due to these endless proceedings.”
Mr. Bridger has previously said that the charge against his home was made following his receipt of a legal bill for £200,000 (approximately US$292,000) related to the U.K. court proceedings brought by the attorney general. It is unknown how much he has spent defending himself against the Kernohan lawsuit and other court proceedings in the Cayman Islands. According to information obtained by the Cayman Compass, Mr. Bridger has received or has been pledged about US$500,000 in legal assistance from the Metropolitan Police Service and the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime over the last several years, but it is unclear whether that will cover all his costs.
In addition to the civil court wrangling, Mr. Bridger was placed under investigation in a criminal probe in Cayman.
Mr. Bridger learned in February that he remained under investigation over allegations concerning a criminal complaint he made to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service in 2013. The complaint, which was found to be unwarranted following a review by local police, made various accusations against former Cayman Islands Governor Jack, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin and U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office adviser Larry Covington over their respective roles in the Tempura corruption investigation.
Now, Mr. Bridger may face allegations against him related to his 2013 accusations, which were supported at the time by Mr. Kernohan and Mr. Jones. Mr. Bridger has declined to comment about the criminal investigation against him.
“I have said publicly … that it remains my hope that all the facts as to how Operation Tempura progressed over time will be addressed,” Mr. Bridger said.