Police: Decision expected by August in Bridger probe

Martin Bridger leaves the Grand Court in downtown George Town in 2015. - Photo: Brent Fuller

It’s been nearly 10 years since former U.K. Metropolitan Police senior officer Martin Bridger arrived in Cayman to investigate allegations of collusion between a newspaper publisher and a top-ranking member of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

More than $10 million was spent, two criminal trials held and half-a-dozen police officers lost their jobs. There were no convictions after the court cases, and the initial allegations against the publisher and the senior RCIPS officer turned out to be bogus.

However, one final case remains in the Operation Tempura saga – the criminal investigation related to Mr. Bridger, the former corruption investigator.

“The Bridger investigation file was submitted to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and a response is expected within four to six weeks,” the RCIPS noted in a statement to the Cayman Compass last week.

Ten years later, the senior investigating officer has become the one being investigated. He has not been charged with any offense.

RCIPS officials have said all investigative records pertaining to the case, which now spans the administrations of three Cayman Islands governors, are still kept in a secure area.

“In terms of confidential allegations made by members of the public, such records are secured and have been secured for years,” the police statement noted. “We are unaware of anyone’s exposure as a result of these records.”

Investigation drags on

Mr. Bridger, now in his mid-60s, has been aware of an investigation against him in Cayman since at least 2014, but the reason for the investigation has never been made clear.

In August 2014, then-RCIPS Commissioner David Baines alluded to the possibility that Mr. Bridger could be in some legal trouble over certain statements he made regarding the case, particularly criminal allegations Mr. Bridger made in early 2013 against the territory’s former governor and current attorney general. The former U.K. lawman had alleged to the U.K. Met Police and the RCIPS that former Cayman Governor Stuart Jack and Attorney General Sam Bulgin misled him about various facts in the Tempura investigation.

Former Governor Jack and Mr. Bulgin have publicly denied those allegations. Mr. Jack at one point commented that it was “high time” Mr. Bridger be held accountable for his statements.

Mr. Baines said in 2014: “Whilst the criminal allegations made by Mr. Bridger failed, were unsupported and unproved after analysis of all of the available evidence, it is correct to say that his account and publishing of data within the media led to counter-allegations of criminal conduct being made in relation to his conduct. Those allegations remain under investigation and are subject to continued inquiry.”

A Grand Court ruling in a separate legal matter, published in 2015, did specify criminal allegations against Mr. Bridger via an affidavit filed by former Crown counsel Douglas Schofield on Dec. 19, 2014.

The affidavit states in paragraph 16: “[Commissioner] Baines has authorized me to advise the court that Bridger is currently being investigated for the following offences (1) misconduct in a public office, contrary to common law, (2) providing false information to a public officer … (3) willfully misleading a police officer … (4) making a false report to a police officer ….

“In addition and in connection with the U.K. High Court civil action … Bridger is under investigation for potential criminal charges in either the Cayman Islands or the U.K. relating to (5) theft of police property, (6) handling and/or possession of stolen property, (7) breaches of the U.K.’s Data Protection Act 1998.”

Letter to premier

In mid-2016, while still apparently under investigation, Mr. Bridger wrote a letter to Premier Alden McLaughlin stating that he wished all matters relating to Operation Tempura to be put “behind me.” Mr. Bridger released the letter to the local media shortly after sending it to the premier on July 1, 2016.

“[The Cayman authorities] know that to allow all the facts to be independently scrutinized would run a very high risk of exposing wrongdoing by individuals, causing significant embarrassment for the FCO [U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office], the Cayman Islands government, etc.,” Mr. Bridger wrote. “Reputational damage would be at a premium. All of the evidence considered together clearly supports the assertion I made … that there has been a deliberate concealment of evidence, misrepresentation of the facts and that individuals holding high public office have behaved unethically in their individual and collective desire to have matters swept under the carpet.

“I wish to make you [referring to the premier] aware that the attorney general and director of public prosecutions are, in my humble submission, conflicted in providing any advice to you on these issues.

Premier McLaughlin categorized Mr. Bridger’s statements as an “extortion attempt” and said during the Legislative Assembly that if anyone had evidence of corruption in the Cayman Islands, they should present it to police. Mr. McLaughlin said that as long as he holds the office of premier, Mr. Bridger “will not receive one red cent of my people’s money in settlement of any claim,” adding that Mr. Bridger could sue the government over the matter if he wanted to.

Mr. McLaughlin was re-elected in May and has formed a new coalition government, with himself as premier.

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