Operation Tempura case not over, says Smith

| 12/02/2009

(CNS): Despite calls from the elected government to close down the protracted investigation surrounding the allegations of an unlawful entry in to the Cayman Net News offices, which has so far failed to reveal any evidence of serious wrong doing against the RCIPS, Acting Commissioner James Smith has said that the Operation Tempura investigation would continue and that it could not be closed down.

The case which has been termed Netnewsgate, which that brought Martin Bridger and his Special Police Investigation Team to the Cayman Island in the first place and recently led to CI$1.275 million being awarded in damages to Justice Alex Henderson, is a very complex case which has not ended, said Smith.

He confirmed that John Jones had recently been interviewed but he said the Chief Superintendent still remained suspended from duty on full pay as he has for the last year. He also said that the team still wanted to interview former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, and he confirmed that the case against Lyndon Martin was set for trial in March. He would not, however, give anymore details of the substance of the whole investigation.

“Charges have been laid in some areas of this, enquiries are ongoing in other areas and files currently sit with the Solicitor General about how they will proceed with things in court. I don’t think it is appropriate for me to comment on speculation,” Smith said, adding that there was business to be finished regarding that incident.

He said that he would not rule in or out the possibility of Jones returning to his job, and he said that it would depend on the evidence whether he would face criminal charges or a disciplinary hearing.

In recent weeks and months, most of the elected Cabinet members have voiced their very serious concerns about this element of the investigation in terms of both the length of the enquiry – more than sixteen months — and its cost, which is in excess of $4 million, without revealing any evidence of a crime. At the most recent Cabinet press briefing, the leader of government business said that the government was no longer prepared to appropriate funds for this investigation while Bridger remained the lead investigator and with no evidence that a crime actually occurred.

The governor was forced to use his reserve powers to get the funding from the Cayman treasury to pay Justice Henderson’s damages and to acquire more money for Operation Tempura. Henderson was unlawfully arrested by Bridger and SPIT as a result of suggestions that the Judge had been making inappropriate enquiries about letters written to Net News that undermined the local judiciary.

Trying to explain the reason why the whole enquiry surrounding Net News was taking so long and costing so much, Smith said that on the face of it the incident might appear straight forward, but it had tentacles and no one could have envisaged where the investigation may have gone. But he said he did not want to speculate or comment about the enquiry as it was still ongoing. He did say that operations that begin as covert investigations, as this one did, by their very nature can take much longer to come to a conclusion.

Although Smith would not be drawn on details, it is understood that the investigation surrounds whether or not Kernohan and Jones acted inappropriately regarding Martin’s entry into the offices of Net News. Martin was at the time a journalist with the paper when, allegedly, his suspicions and those of his former colleague John Evans, were raised that the newspaper proprietor Desmond Seales could be in a corrupt relationship with Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis.

As a result the two journalists reported their suspicions to the police and then attempted to find evidence of these suspicions in Seales’ office by entering their work place late at night. Since then, Bridger has declared that there is no truth to the rumour of a corrupt relationship between Seales and Ennis, something which he says was apparent early in the investigation.

Bridger then switched his attention to Jones and Kernohan and the two reporters. Since October 2007, he and SPIT have been pursing the idea that the allegations by Martin were not only false but malicious and that Kernohan and Joneshave misconducted themselves in some way by assisting with the search for evidence. However, it appears that that Larry Covington, who is responsible for UK Overseas Territories police services in the Caribbean, Attorney General Sam Bulgin and Governor Stuart Jack were all aware of the situation from the very beginning when Martin and Evans made the accusations against Ennis.

In two important legal rulings in February and March 2008, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie made it clear that he could see no evidence of either officer acting unlawfully and that they had a duty to investigate what they perceived to be possibly legitimate allegations. In both rulings Smellie had refused to sign warrants for Bridger to search the homes of either Kernohan or Jones because of the lack of evidence of any unlawful intent.

The only charges brought so far in the sixteen-month investigation into this case are those against Martin, which have already been reduced from the original 17 counts that he faced when arrested in March of last year to the two counts he will face in court next month, both of which are concerned with making false allegations against a police officer. The primary prosecution witness against Martin is believed to be Evans, who has not been charged despite supporting Martin in his suspicions that Seales was being leaked police information, possibly through Ennis.

However, Evans who now resides in the UK, has since declared that his testimony regarding the alleged unlawful entry was taken under duress, although he has not explained the circumstances of that “duress” and says he will be resisting the summons to attend Martin’s trial as a witness for the prosecution. When asked about this, Smith said he could not speculate on the importance of Evans to the case against Martin as he had simply not been involved in the investigation long enough.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Oops I meant Cayman News Service not Net News. The Court is the place for this to be discussed not a News site in my opinion.

    • John Evans says:

      Exactly my point.

      "The Court is the place for this to be discussed not a News site in my opinion."

      But for months I have been subjected to an unlawful barrage of allegations in the pages of my former employer’s publication and on his website.

      In over 20 years associated with the media, and a much longer period working with the criminal courts, I have never seen a publication treat the judicial system with such blatant contempt and get away with it.

      I  the face of an absolute refusal by the authorities totake action I took the only option remaining open to me – going public. As the saying goes, "What’s good for the goose is good for the gander."

  2. Anonymous says:

    Unbelieveable! Why is a witness writing on a public forum about a case that has yet to go to trial???? and why is Cayman Net News printing it?  Mr Evans should either shut up (sadly the damage has been done) or answer his witness summons.

  3. John Evans says:

    There are a number of points I wish to clarify –

    "The primary prosecution witness against Martin is believed to be Evans, who has not been charged despite supporting Martin in his suspicions that Seales was being leaked police information, possibly through Ennis."

    As records now in the public domain show, this is not an accurate reflection of what happened. I was told by Mr Seales that information concerning the misuse of the helicopter leased by the RCIPS from Cayman Islands Helicopters had been given to him by Mr Ennis. This revelation predates Lyndon’s investigation and prompted my approach to Commissioner Kernohan. At the time I was completely unaware of Lyndon’s concerns, it was only later that the two courses of investigation merged to become Operation Tempura.

    The information that Mr Seales, in the main Net News office and in the presence of other members of staff, claimed to have received from Mr Ennis alleged the Mr Kernohan was using publicly funded time on the helicopter to boost his own flying qualifications and representing it as operational RCIPS use. This allegation was, according to my sources, untrue. However, it was never established that the information actually came from Mr Ennis and Mr Seales has subsequently denied naming Mr Ennis as his source.

    The ‘Netnewsgate’ search, which I freely admit to conducting and which has been ruled perfectly legal, was conducted solely to establish whether or not a red box file containing hard copies of emails, and possibly letters, was present or not. It was not and whether it had ever been stored in Mr Seales office is a matter of pure speculation. The search was not, as has been suggested, conducted to find evidence against Mr Seales it was conducted to establish if the file, and the documents contained therein, was present.

    The question of ‘duress’ was raised by one of my legal advisors in the UK. It relates to the timing of interviews and pressure put on me to agree to the contents of badly worded (semi-literate to be absolutely accurate) observations. There are also other concerns about the released versions of statements allegedly attributed to myself, which bear no resemblance to the actual material I provided. These are the subject of the complaints currently being ignored by the Met, Operation Tempura and the Governor.

    Other contributors have raised the question of financial motives in my refusal to return to Cayman. The reason that I am refusing to answer the witness summons is purely one of personal safety – I am not satisfied that the officers involved understand, or care about, the potential risks. There is also circumstantial evidence that their close relationship with one of the other Crown witnesses is forcing them to turn a ‘blind eye’ to my concerns.

    However, it is only fair to reveal that I am seeking to recover some £5000 in expenses incurred by my retention on Grand Cayman between 1 May and 31 July 2008. This money should, in my opinion, be paid by the Metropolitan Police Service in London who were in charge of Operation Tempura at the time but the claim has been passed on to the Cayman Islands for settlement.

    In addition, the question has now been raised as to whether the handling of my protection as a Crown witness was conducted properly. It is no secret that I fled the Cayman Islands after being subjected to numerous personal attacks published by my former employer and also following what appeared to be interference in a work permit application, which would have enabled me to remain on Grand Cayman. What is at stake here is whether or not the failure by officers from Operation Tempura to protect my interests represents grounds for a claim to cover loss of earnings since 1 August 2008. Again I regard this as a problem for the Met, they regard as something to pass on to the people of the Cayman Islands. What it is important to understand is the fact that my decision not to return, which will without doubt be supported by the courts in the UK, is not connected to the financial issues.