Four years after a criminal investigation was initiated against him, former Operation Tempura senior investigator Martin Bridger said he has still not been formally interviewed by authorities concerning the facts of the case.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said in mid-July that a decision whether to charge Mr. Bridger was expected within four to six weeks.
In a statement sent to the Cayman Compass this week, Mr. Bridger wondered how that decision could be reached without interviewing the alleged suspect.
“I have, on numerous occasions sought to be interviewed in relation to these allegations,” Mr. Bridger’s statement read. “It is [with] profound regret that to date, after an investigation against me lasting over four years that I have not been able to answer my accusers.
“If I was interviewed, all the facts concerning Operation Tempura from September 2007 to date could form part of my defense. I am aware that such an interview could result in the exposure of some individuals and the [U.K.] Foreign and Commonwealth Office to further scrutiny.
“The fact that after four years I remain under criminal investigation continues to have a debilitating effect on my post-retirement career and my family.”
It’s been nearly 10 years since Mr. Bridger, a former U.K. Metropolitan Police officer, 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.
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.”
Mr. Bridger’s statement released to the Compass this week sought to clarify a number of issues around the criminal investigation initiated against him.
The allegations referred to by former Commissioner Baines had their genesis in 2012, after private conversations between Mr. Bridger and former RCIPS Commissioner Stuart Kernohan who was eventually fired over the Tempura fiasco. Those conversations, Mr. Bridger said, led him to conclude he was “grossly misled on key aspects” of the corruption probe “by senior officials.”
Both Mr. Kernohan and former RCIPS Chief Superintendent John Jones provided Mr. Bridger with statements to support claims Mr. Bridger made to the U.K. Metropolitan Police in April 2013 that certain Cayman Islands officials had engaged in misconduct while Operation Tempura was being conducted.
U.K. Met police who reviewed the matter indicated there were “reasonable grounds to suspect an offense had occurred,” but noted the London-based police force was conflicted in the Tempura matter and, therefore, could not investigate.
Following the Met’s decision, Mr. Bridger said he forwarded the same allegations to then-Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor, who gave the matter to Mr. Baines to review. Mr. Bridger said after a relatively short inquiry, in which neither he nor other top Cayman police officials were interviewed, the allegations were dismissed.
“To my knowledge, although [Mr. Baines] was in possession of witness statements from Kernohan and Jones he did not interview either of them to objectively and dispassionately test the evidence they provided,” Mr. Bridger’s statement to the Compass read.
It was shortly after the probe into the Bridger criminal complaint was closed that the former corruption investigator found he was the subject of counter allegations. It is those allegations for which Mr. Bridger remains under investigation today, he said.
In 2016, the retired U.K. lawman said one of the RCIPS investigators informed him the case had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in Cayman “for directions.” Mr. Bridger said he has not been informed of any progress since then.
“I remain resolute to have all the facts of Operation Tempura and [Operation] Cealt appropriately examined,” Mr. Bridger’s statement read. “If that opportunity does not arise through the criminal investigation then other mechanisms will be explored whereby all the facts are established and any culpability of all those involved in these matters is established.”
“Operation Cealt” was a spin-off probe, separate from Operation Tempura, which involved dozens of complaints from Cayman Islands residents, largely involving allegations of police corruption.
These allegations were investigated by the Mr. Baines-led RCIPS and resulted in the dismissal of six officers for reasons that have never been disclosed.
RCIPS officials have said all investigative records pertaining to Tempura and Cealt, which now span 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.”
Mr. Bridger said, during his time in Cayman, he was asked to receive and record the various corruption allegations made by members of the public.
“Many of the allegations were of a very serious nature and involved individuals across all spectrums of the Cayman Islands society, stretching back a significant number of years,” the statement he provided to the Compass read. “An independent report which assessed the allegations and those it was considered required investigation was completed.”
Mr. Bridger left Cayman in April 2009. He said he understood all decisions as to whether to proceed with further investigation of the ‘Operation Cealt’ claims were left to Mr. Baines.
“I do not know the outcome of any of these matters,” his statement noted.