Massive unknown costs for Tempura investigation

Well more than $10M spent since 2007

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

The Cayman Islands government has spent more than $10 million in relation to the failed Operation Tempura corruption investigation since 2007.

However, there are likely millions more dollars in expenditures related to the probe that have never been made known and which one former auditor general declined to examine.

Another former auditor general, Dan Duguay, has always maintained his initial queries into Tempura investigation spending are what led to his ouster from the office after his contract was not renewed in early 2010. Mr. Duguay was the last government official to look into the ill-fated investigation’s spending, and his exact tally only went through January 2009.

The Tempura audit revealed that $5.7 million was spent on the investigation from September 2007 to January 2009. Mr. Duguay estimated a further $1.1 million was spent from February 2009 through June 2009, but it did not specifically review costs for that period.

Those costs included money spent on U.K. Metropolitan Police officers seconded for the investigative efforts, additional cash for U.K.-based law enforcement consulting firms, official travel, housing, transport and office accommodations in Cayman.

The estimates of further $1.1 million in spending between February 2009 and June 2009 were based on the costs continuing at the January 2009 levels, according to Mr. Duguay’s audit. However, the Operation Tempura team was in Cayman through the end of 2009, and some officials involved in the probe stayed and were later hired by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service in April 2010. Any costs related to continued work from July 2009 and beyond were never audited.

When Alastair Swarbrick took over the audit office later in 2010, his long-term plan included a second look at “value for money” received by Cayman for the Tempura investigation.

However, in 2013, when asked about the potential new audit for Operation Tempura spending, Mr. Swarbrick said he did not see any “value” in delving back into the issue.

Legal costs

More than $3.1 million has been spent on legal settlements and attorneys fees related to ongoing Tempura court battles, but it is likely that amount does not even reflect half of what was actually spent.

The wrongful arrest of former Grand Court Justice Alex Henderson during the Tempura investigation cost government $1.275 million to settle in 2008. However, details of other settlements reached with former RCIPS Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, Deputy Commissioner Rudi Dixon and retired Police Inspector Burmon Scott were never made public due to various non-disclosure agreements.

Legal bills for other matters cost nearly $1.8 million as of early 2014, but that sum also may not account for all the costs incurred. Those expenses included:

The Attorney General’s Chambers spent $728,700.17 for outside counsel in relation to the wrongful termination lawsuit Mr. Kernohan filed in May 2009 over his firing from the RCIPS. The lawsuit was settled in early 2014

Another $299,618.37 was paid for outside attorneys in relation to a case the attorney general’s office described as “Bridger matters.” This is presumably a reference to a case filed against former Operation Tempura senior investigator Martin Bridger by attorneys general in Cayman and the U.K. seeking to recover documents Mr. Bridger held from the investigation between 2007 and 2009

A government payment of $343,214 went for “Polaine/Bridger complaints.” This is a reference to money spent on an evaluation of a complaint former Operation Tempura legal adviser Martin Polaine filed with the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the aftermath of the failed investigation. Mr. Polaine later dropped the matter, but Mr. Bridger carried it forward, alleging misconduct on the part of some members of the Cayman judiciary, as well as certain members of the attorney general’s chambers

The territory’s former government said the Polaine/Bridger allegations were “without merit,” but the government spent another $375,000 in legal fees haggling over the public release of that report between 2014 and 2016 before finally releasing a redacted version of it.

Finally, $41,617 was spent on outside attorney’s fees in what is termed the “A. Henderson matter.” This was in relation to the lawsuit filed by Mr. Henderson over his 2008 arrest.

U.K. costs

Not all spending in relation to the Operation Tempura probe took place in the Cayman Islands.

According to records obtained by the Cayman Compass and reports in the U.K. press, former Operation Tempura senior investigator Martin Bridger had been paid roughly CI$250,000 (£180,000) in legal assistance as of mid-2014 and had authorization at the time to receive about CI$372,500 (£268,000) more should the need arise.

The veteran police officer has told the Compass that he had sought additional financial assistance from the U.K. Metropolitan Police in defending civil claims brought against him by the Cayman Islands government in Britain. Mr. Bridger said during 2014 that he received a £200,000 bill from the Cayman government following a hearing in the U.K. where Caymanian officials attempted to recover certain records they believed the retired U.K. lawman still had in his possession.

Mr. Bridger said at the time that he feared his family’s home would have to be mortgaged in order for him to afford rapidly mounting legal bills related to civil actions filed against him in the Tempura matter.

Mr. Bridger was also placed under investigation in the Cayman Islands sometime during 2013 over what officials alleged was a bogus complaint he made about senior Cayman and U.K. officials lying to him about certain issues in the Tempura investigation. That criminal investigation lasted more than four years and the matter was only set aside last month with no charges against Mr. Bridger.

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1 COMMENT

  1. If you’re asking how much Tempura/Cealt cost there’s one very simple answer, ‘Too much!’ The whole thing was a complete waste of time and money that should have been quietly shut down in October 2007. I was one of the participants in an off-the-record meeting in a room at Comfort Suites that came to the conclusion that the Seales/Ennis conspiracy plot allegations were complete nonsense.

    I was also the person who pushed the issue of the completion of the 2009 audit, not just through the Governor’s office in the Cayman Islands but during a face-to-face meeting at the FCO in 2013. One of the problems with the original audit was, according to material supplied to me by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), it had formed conclusions on the basis of information that, to put it politely, was misleading. In blunt terms some of the findings had, in my opinion, been fatally compromised by material either being withheld or released selectively. In fact I got a copy of the original draft of the audit and it is quite staggering how many changes various people involved in running Operation Tempura forced, or attempted to force, Dan Duguay to make – you would never see anything like that (and I speak from personal experience here) in a civil service audit in the UK. The level of interference in the audit (at one stage an attempt was made to kill it off) actually raised serious questions about the true role of the OAG in the Cayman Islands. Despite these relevations Duncan Taylor, who was Governor at the time, dismissed my requests with a comment along the lines of, ‘Lessons have been learned,’ while the FCO’s response was that Alistair Swarbrick had better things to do with his time.

    As a result of this we don’t know what the final bill was for the services of Mr Bridger and associates or what was paid to his former MPS colleagues who were working for CIG as BGP Global. The only thing we do know for certain is that when Mr Bridger’s £747 a day contract was terminated his job was taken over by a serving MPS Detective Inspector who I can assure you wasn’t costing anything like that.

    I’d encountered exactly the same kind of obstructive attitude to my 2012 FOI request for a copy of the Aina report. It took four years to resolve that and, whatever official figures are quoted in this story, my understanding is that the total legal bill, shared between the ICO and the Governor, went over $1million. The two main court hearings cost over $500K each.

    To this we now have to add the costs of the protracted and completely pointless RCIPS investigation into Mr Bridger’s conduct. Odds are he will right now be considering suing both RCIPS and CIG.

    And the list of outgoings, most of them apparently being paid to various law firms in the UK and the Cayman Islands goes on and on and on.

    Outside the Cayman Islands, the legal assistance paid to Martin Bridger by the MPS, details of which were leaked to the Daily Mail in July 2014, was actually the second contribution made by the UK tax payers to his legal costs. At the end of 2011 the old Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) had awarded him a payment to cover the costs of fighting Stuart Kernohan’s civil action. In that case I was able to obtain a copy of his application and the MPA’s decision, which was made a matter of weeks before they were replaced by MOPAC. However, they refused to disclose the amount involved but my understanding is that it was substantial. The MOPAC decision, being exempt from FOIA in the UK, was made in total secrecy and would have remained confidential but for the leak.

    At the end of the day you have to wonder why anyone would be so desperate to cover up what was going here don’t you? Was Tempura, as the Daily Mail suggested when the renamed it the ‘Sunshine Squad’, just an expensive jolly for a bunch of well-connected coppers or was there a more sinister agenda here?

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