Operation Tempura: 'Open investigation,' closed records

Round and round the Tempura documents go, where they’ll end up, nobody knows. But we can hazard a guess … probably down a drain somewhere.

Former Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan has, after nearly six years, withdrawn his lawsuit against former Operation Tempura chief Martin Bridger. That effectively closes Mr. Kernohan’s chapter in the narrative of the bungled U.K. probe, which led to his firing in late 2008 (and a wrongful termination lawsuit settled in March 2014).

Mr. Bridger, however, still has a role to play, as he is apparently the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation to which current Police Commissioner David Baines first alluded eight months ago.

The criminal investigation against Mr. Bridger still remains as the primary legal obstacle separating the public from records related to Tempura.

Last month, visiting Cayman Islands Grand Court Judge Timothy Owen ruled that the investigation of Mr. Bridger — concerning criminal allegations Mr. Bridger made to Cayman police in January 2014 against former Cayman Governor Stuart Jack and current Attorney General Samuel Bulgin — allowed the governor’s office to withhold the Tempura records from release. Mr. Bridger has publicly called for the release of the documents.

The records in question relate to a 2010 complaint filed by Tempura’s former legal adviser Martin Polaine, alleging misconduct by certain judicial and legal figures in Cayman — as well as a critical 185-page evaluation, by U.K. attorney Ben Aina on behalf of the governor’s office, of Mr. Polaine’s complaint.

We understand from earlier court proceedings that Judge Owen would order Cayman’s Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers to consider for a third time whether those records should be released for public perusal.

Knowing Mr. Liebaers’s past work, we’re sure that whatever answer he arrives at will be supported by sound reasoning and informed by a keen insight into Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law. On the other hand, considering the track record of U.K. and Cayman governmental authorities (and having an inkling of the magnitude of what’s at stake if the Tempura records are released), we’re fairly certain — as in, we’d be willing to take bets, if that weren’t against the Gambling Law — that the ultimate response to any recommendation to disclose said documents will be a polite, but firm, “No way. No how. No sir.”

In regard to Tempura, government’s (and the FCO’s) Rule No. 1 is “Secrecy … We might add, “at all costs,” except that we don’t know the total cost of Tempura. Nobody does. That’s because the cost of Tempura to Cayman taxpayers is one of the things government won’t talk about.

Based on the limited information we do have, we can set a hard floor of at least $10 million that Cayman taxpayers have funded to finance Tempura, including about $7 million on the initial investigation and $3 million on legal actions — but not including subsequent investigations, Tempura spinoff Operation Cealt or the settlement amounts paid to three former Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Officers swept up in the probe: former Commissioner Kernohan, former Deputy Commissioner Rudolph Dixon and former Inspector Burmon Scott.

Tempura has devolved into a long-term war of attrition, a no-win scenario for all parties involved, save for the proverbial “powers that be.”

The Compass’s position on these documentary matters is simple and straightforward (and apparently in harmony with Mr. Bridger’s and Mr. Liebaers’s): Release the documents (even in redacted form) — especially the so-called “Aina Report.”

The Cayman people paid CI$335,000 on behalf of former Governor Duncan Taylor to commission the report, and we continue to pay many more thousands of dollars in legal fees and judicial expenses to keep its secrets under wraps.

Unwrapping these records would go a long way toward wrapping up Tempura — once and for all.


  1. It is my understanding that Operation Tempura was focused upon corruption within the Cayman Islands so opening up records would likely name subjects of interest where sufficient evidence was not found to bring the case to court.
    The legal and financial liabilities of making such information public would be most unwise. Without the paper trail of direct taxation to follow the money proof of corruption is most difficult to obtain as we know from past failed cases.

  2. @ Jack Augsbury

    Tempura was never intended to be a general investigation into corruption. It was launched (I was there at the beginning) to deal with a specific allegation and then went into some pretty serious mission creep for reasons that hardly need rehashing here.

    The harsh reality is that Operations Tempura and Cealt never found any evidence of anything worth mentioning and left the Cayman Islands with a bill for their efforts that is probably now comfortably in the 20-30 million dollar range.

    You only need to look back at what happened to their only attempts at securing convictions (Lyndon Martin and Rudi Dixon) to see how pathetic the whole exercise was.

    The only reason nobody wants to open up the records on this farce is because they might raise more than a few questions about what this so-called anti-corruption investigation was really up to.

  3. John you are being way too kind here.

    Mission creep?

    I would have said that making GBP787 a day must have been an almost irresistible incentive not to wind up the investigation.