Police: Operation Tempura case closed

Bridger: ‘Vindictiveness’ led to probe against me

Martin Bridger, a retired U.K. police officer, led the Tempura investigation between 2007 and 2009.

More than four years after criminal allegations were brought against former Operation Tempura senior investigator Martin Bridger, Mr. Bridger and his former second-in-command, U.K. police officer Richard Coy, have been cleared of any suspected wrongdoing.

According to a statement from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, the decision was released Wednesday by the Crown.

“The Director of Public Prosecutions issued a legal ruling directing no criminal prosecution against Martin Bridger or Richard Coy, related to the long-running Operation Tempura investigation,” the RCIPS statement noted.

“The RCIPS can confirm that both parties have been advised of the ruling and that the case is now closed.”

Mr. Bridger was contacted for comment Thursday regarding the decision.

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“The investigation against me by RCIPS has taken almost five years to complete,” Mr. Bridger said in a written statement. “I was not provided with ‘details’ of the investigation. It was not made clear to me who my accusers were. I was not interviewed in respect of the allegations made. Not one piece of evidence was shared with me.”

“In all of the circumstances known to me, I am satisfied the allegations against me had no substance and were borne out of vindictiveness,” he added.

The retired U.K. lawman, now in his mid-60s, said he would continue to advocate for the truth surrounding Operation Tempura and its spin-off probe Operation Cealt to come out.

“I will now consider how to move matters forward, which will expose all the facts,” he said. “All of the available evidence has still not been fully investigated, which is a shameful stain on the credibility of RCIPS and other public bodies.”

Mr. Bridger, who was initially brought to Cayman in September 2007 to investigate allegations of corruption within the RCIPS, ended up having the tables turned on him in 2014, when former Police Commissioner David Baines announced it was Mr. Bridger who was the subject of an investigation.

A decade ago

The former U.K. Metropolitan Police officer’s initial purpose in Cayman was 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 on the probe, two criminal trials were 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, the late Desmond Seales, and the senior RCIPS officer, Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis, turned out to be bogus. After clearing Mr. Seales and Mr. Ennis, the investigation sought to determine why the allegations had been brought against the two men and whether other local police officers had acted improperly or illegally in doing so.

In August 2014, then-RCIPS Commissioner Baines alluded to the possibility that Mr. Bridger could be in some legal trouble over certain statements he made regarding the original Tempura investigation, 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 Samuel 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.”

Bridger statements

Mr. Bridger released a statement to the Compass in August which sought to clarify a number of issues around the criminal investigation initiated against him. He made similar comments in the statement released on Thursday, following the Crown’s ruling.

The allegations referred to by former Commissioner Baines had their genesis in 2012, after private conversations occurred 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 August 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.

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.

The statement released Thursday indicated: “I had previously made an allegation of crime to the RCIPS against senior officials. The allegation was supported by witness statements from an ex-commissioner and chief superintendent of RCIPS. The Metropolitan Police considered an investigation was warranted. I was not given the opportunity to provide a witness statement nor were other witnesses who were available to support the allegation, albeit RCIPS were told of their availability.

“Within a few months, David Baines concluded the investigation stating there was insufficient evidence. On the evidence I have seen, there was no desire by RCIPS to independently and dispassionately investigate the allegations.”

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  1. I was interviewed during the UK phase of this investigation in April 2016. One area the RCIPS investigators were looking at involved the possibility that Operations Tempura and Cealt had been used by people involved for personal gain. In simple terms the suggestion was that these operations had been extended and expanded when they should have been wound up. I have my own opinions on this but at the end of the day the proof of alleged wrong-doing was never there. One of the ironies of this is that the decision by Duncan Taylor and the FCO not to complete Dan Duguay’s 2009 Tempura/Cealt audit was probably a major factor in killing off this line of enquiry. Without an official verdict on the final expenditure there was really nothing to hang the investigation on. To compound this was the fact that once the investigation moved into private hands after March/April 2008 all the finances were under the oversight of CIG with a senior civil servant signing off on the payments. This situation created a valid argument that if the investigation was being dragged out it was being done with tacit official approval.

    Having said that, it’s my personal opinion that what eventually killed off these complaints was more likely to have been the embarrassment factor. Putting Martin Bridger and the others involved (including myself) on the stand would have opened a really nasty can of worms. Another problem for the prosecution would have been the human rights issue. Under ECHR Article 6, which is embodied in the UK’s Human Rights Act, Mr Bridger was entitled to expect this investigation to be conducted in a ‘reasonable time’ and that clearly was not the case here. If charges had been filed all his lawyers needed to do was argue that the period of investigation was unreasonable citing case-law like Philippe Bertin-Mourot – v – France.

    The bottom line on this investigation is that it bears an unfortunate resemblance to the shambles that was Operation Tempura/Cealt – a lengthy, expensive and ultimately completely unproductive waste of money and resources. Duncan Taylor responded to the criticism in Dan Duguay’s 2009 Tempura/Cealt audit with a comment along the lines of ‘lessons have been learned’ but as we can see here that clearly is not the case.

    It will be interesting to see where this goes next because Martin Bridger seems have been placed in a very strong position to claim damages for reputational harm.

  2. Sorry, typo in final sentence of my comment it should read – It will be interesting to see where this goes next because Martin Bridger seems to have been placed in a very strong position to claim damages for reputational harm.