Operation Tempura

| 12/09/2009

It is a tragic irony that Operation Tempura, a Metropolitan Police Service (Met) investigation into alleged corruption within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS), will go down in history not for any successes in its target area but for the barrage of criticism the activities of the officers involved attracted and for the damage they did to policing in the Cayman Islands.

Although an official enquiry has yet to be launched, when it is a number of those involved will almost certainly be identified as having acted outside the bounds of the law and hopefully some will be made to account for their actions – only time will tell.

As former Commissioner Stuart Kernohan observed during Lyndon Martin’s trial, the Operation Tempura team hit the island with pre-conceived attitudes and stuck with them whatever evidence they turned up to the contrary. Within days of them contacting me they had, without apparently doing any kind of background checks, decided Lyndon was lying, Desmond Seales was innocent of all allegations and I was a ‘significant witness’. They had quite simply decided who was right and who was wrong, and then set about proving it rather than conducting a proper investigation. Quite what prompted this is still unclear.

However, the Senior Investigating Officer, Martin Bridger, admitted to me quite early on that he had been very impressed by the performance of Net News Publisher Desmond Seales during the Cliffordgate enquiry. This impression was apparently formed without any background knowledge of Mr Seales and before Mr Bridger had actually met him. Based on subsequent events, this had a profound effect on the way the whole operation was conducted.

After Operation Tempura went public on 27 March 2008 Cayman Net News published numerous misleading articles and editorial comments. It was, and still is, my opinion that this material was deliberately designed to prejudice the process that culminated with Lyndon’s acquittal. One editorial identified me as a future Crown witness then attacked my credibility, something unprecedented in my 20 years involvement with the media. Others published information supplied to Mr Seales by Martin Bridger during a confidential briefing on 16 March.

Over the months I repeatedly complained about this, first to Mr Bridger then to the Met officer in charge of the investigation, Assistant Commissioner John Yates, that the material being published was prejudicial to justice and that ignoring it was a violation of the human rights of those being targeted. Mr Bridger decided, apparently without taking legal advice, that this was a “personal” matter. Mr Yates’ office stonewalled me on the basis that the whole matter was sub judice.

In fact, as a sworn officer of the RCIPS, Mr Bridger was not in a position to make any ruling on the situation and had a legal duty, imposed on him when he took the oath of a Special Constable, to either properly investigate the complaints or, if he felt unable to do so, pass it on to a suitably qualified senior officer for action. In failing to do this, apparently in order to protect one of his key witnesses, he appears to have committed exactly the same crime that Deputy Commissioner Rudi Dixon currently stands accused of and Justice Henderson was falsely accused of.

Despite the complaints, on 1 October 2008 Net News was encouraged to print the first of a three-part editorial in what was apparently an attempt to influence public opinion in favour of the then-floundering investigation. The spin continued throughout the rest of the year with material quite clearly being leaked to Net News during a period of official news blackout while the Met tried to dig itself out of the fallout from the Cresswell ruling. Not content with operating as the PR arm of Operation Tempura, Net News then pitched in to defend the lawyer responsible for the illegal arrest of Justice Henderson from local criticism with disastrous results for the gentleman concerned.

Sometime last year a post on marlroad.com dealing with Operation Tempura asked the question, “who polices the police?” It was a valid observation because one of the things Operation Tempura revealed is that UK officers working abroad in this manner are effectively unaccountable. Unlike when they are on duty in the UK, there are no checks and balances. Based on my experience the officers concerned felt safe to do as they pleased and got very upset when I challenged that.

In the UK, my complaints plus the material revealed during Lyndon’s trial and the Cresswell ruling on Justice Henderson’s arrest would be more than enough to force a top level external investigation into the whole operation. Unfortunately, because the officers were working outside the UK it seems unlikely that will happen unless more pressure is applied. There are two bodies in the UK, the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), charged with ensuring that the Met comply with both the law and their own internal rules. My hope is that Lyndon, his lawyers or possibly even the Cayman Islands Government will now approach both these bodies and demand an independent investigation into Operation Tempura. Because this is a direct complaint against an operation overseen by the Met, the cost should be borne by the UK taxpayer not the people of the Cayman Islands and I believe the outcome of such an investigation would be the introduction of rigid guidelines for the future conduct of overseas operations that would prevent a repeat of the Operation Tempura fiasco.

While they are at it, some very serious questions need to be asked about the Governor’s handling of the whole affair. Particularly the decision to go public after the alleged Ennis/Seales connection had proved unfounded. Was there any need to go public or to put three senior officers on gardening leave? Based on what has happened to the RCIPS since, I think to call it an error of judgment would be very kind; it has been a disaster. On 27 March, by all accounts, Operation Tempura’s covert status had either been ‘blown’ or was unsustainable. The press conference was, according to my sources, almost a panic reaction, as were the decisions to arrest Lyndon and suspend three senior officers.

But wasn’t it obvious to any of them that going public on this and arresting the informant (whatever the motives) sent out a very negative message to any member of the public considering reporting anything to the RCIPS, an organisation that already enjoyed a reputation for not protecting sources? Probably not considering the decision to allow Net News to publish material that identified sources, attacked witnesses and published material about people accused of crime with complete impunity. In fact over 12 months the combined Tempura/Net News publicity machine has probably convinced most people in the Cayman Islands that any kind of cooperation with the authorities is a very bad idea.

Effectively, on 27 March 2008 Operation Tempura had achieved absolutely nothing. I know for certain that a number of serious complaints made to the team between September 2007 and January 2008 have never even been followed up, so why wasn’t the whole thing quietly wrapped up? One reason might be that at least one those involved had a vested interest in continuing the operation. Again something for the current Cayman Islands Government to start asking questions about, particularly with the Auditor General’s report on Operation Tempura due out any day now.

Lyndon Martin’s acquittal and the revelations made during the trial should have sent a very blunt message to everyone that this kind of outside operation does not work under the present regulations. Until officers involved in this type of probe are forced to comply with the same rules that apply in the UK it should be made clear that their presence in the Cayman Islands is no longer welcome.


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  1. Joe Average says:

    When I first arrived on island, I was quite impressed to find two newspapers and I read both.  Over the course of time it was also obvious there were different editorial stances.  I enjoy that also.  Let’s call these two points of view CC & NN.  NN had an appeal to me originally because it took a very definitive stance on the roll over policy.  Which I saw as inherently unfair and unjust as it disrupted so many lives in a seemingly arbitrary manner.  So initially NN had my leanings of support.  But also over the course of time there appeared to be too many instances of inaccurate and sensationlist journalism.  Mistakes do happen and the reality is newspapers have to be sold.  But I began to get the impression there was an editorial policy at play in tune with some of the frequent mis-quotes, and less than accurate reporting.  I don’t know Mr. Seales and have not formed an opinion.  But reading of the recent courtroom melodrama and his recorded comments of "He’s a liar, He’s a liar, They’re all liars" hasn’t left a very good impression. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    Is Bridger really a police officer ? I mean one of the first things any police officer worth his salt would do would be back ground checks on witnesses. What would that have revealed about Seales…….among several negative things the fact that he was in prison for fraudulent offences, theft and lying. What would that tell you about his credibility Bridger….come on now this is Policing 101 !!!

    During the Clifford enquiry Sir Richard Tucker, who was clearly pulled out of his moth balls retirement to do this project and was clearly "no longer with the programme" was convinced by Seales too.

    It just goes to show what happens when you drop foriegn nationals in a strange country and ask them to "investigate" or "enquire" into allegations…..oh how wrong they really get it every single time.

    One would have thought that given the multitude of Auditor General’s reports that Sir Richard Tucker had access to and that were produced during the enquiry, that part of his recommendations would have been a more substantial enquiry into the real issue of corruption during the 2001-2004 UDP administration…..the very issues that Clifford exposed……you know the kind of Commission of Enquiry that recently took place in the Turks & Caicos Islands.

    But my friends that was not a part of the UK’s plan for the Cayman Islands……they were on a mission to destablise the Cayman Islands and they had to engineer the return of the idiot who would help them execute their plan !!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Tucker was and still is at work as a judge in the UK; he was not retired. The auditor-general referred his concerns about Bush’s handling of things to RCIPS who ruled that they could find nothing untoward so no further enquiry was made. Seales was a minor player in the Enquiry who simply published Clifford’s leaked documents then ratted on him He was so unimportant he didn’t have to convince Tucker or anyone else of anything. Clifford was a self serving ex civil servant political wannabe who made the mistake of trusting Seales to help him further his ends. Not the first, maybe not the last.

      • Anonymous says:

        That is mostly a fair summary. The RCIPS enquiry into the Affordable Housing Initiative debacle found that there was *insufficient* evidence to press charges against former Minister Frank McField. It did not find that there was "nothing untoward". Insufficient evidence is not the vindication that you suggest, and with regard to what was presented to them by the Auditor General it boggles the mind that after four years they could not complete the circle by joining the dots. The RCIPS did not conduct a full, criminal investigation into the Turtle Farm matter, not only a "fact-finding mission". The Auditor General’s Report did not suggest criminal conduct but instead waste of public money. Perhaps for you that is "nothing untoward".              

        • Anonymous says:

          OK Anon at 19:36. I accept your (mild) rebuke and recognise the points you make. Waste of public funds is a terrible thing and every single government of the last 4 decades has been guilty of it (especially with "compensating" land owners for taking their land). It is not usually provable as criminal, whether we like it or not.

          I am not a Bush supporter in any way; I just wanted to comment on the original post about Tucker’s Enquiry because some people continue to wish that it had gone where it was not required or requested by the Governor to go. It was beyond his remit. It may well be that Bush should have been pursued more for wasting public funds but by whom? Duguay made his point. The RCIPS wasn’t apparently interested. The voters had rejected Bush, McField and co for their misdeeds and life went on.

          And now Bush is back and Clifford is in the wilderness (I suspect for good-he’s no Bush). Ah so it go.

      • John Evans says:

        Chuckie’s actions may not have been ethical but what happened afterwards should be a warning to anyone considering taking my former employer into their confidence.

        The whole matter was originally treated, as it should have been, in the normal way that any media outlet protects their sources until the bust up over CAL shipping Net News.

        At the time Net News was repaying CI$200K arrears of airfreight charges (a situation I understand has been allowed to re-occur) but the payment was late and CAL refused to take the Cayman Brac shipment unless it was prepaid. Exactly what happened next is unclear, but at the time I was working for Net News and more than one source said that the Publisher turned up at CAL and, to quote one person present, "went berserk," trying to force the staff to take the consignment.

        As a result Net News was barred from all CAL flights and Chuckie was targeted in retaliation.

        The great danger when you act as Chuckie did, and as a former police officer I’m still amazed he never saw this coming, is that the material will accepted with a smile and then held for used against the supplier at later date. I know this was the great fear that Stuart Kernohan had, and Operation Tempura ignored, about the possibility that there was a leak within the RCIPS.

        As I said before, the fact that any material coming into Net News from an unofficial source within the RCIPS was not being used to generate news stories must raise serious concerns about what the material might have been, or might be, used for. 

        Incidentally, there’s a delightful irony in the 18 September Net News, which contains yet another editorial call for the repeal of the the Confidential Relationships (Preservation) Law. When you read it just bear in mind that this is the same piece of legislation Net News tried to have both Chuckie and myself prosecuted under in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Makes you wonder who is pulling the strings on this latest campaign doesn’t it?      

        • Anonymous says:

          I am really enjoy your posts and the insights you bring into this character, Mr. Seales.   

  3. Anonymous says:

    Very insightful. Thank you Mr. Evans.

    In relations to comments made re: the judiciary. It is sad to see that people actually believe that this is all about attacking someone who, as has been said, ‘upset the judicial power structure’.

    Sounds to me like Seales has succeeded in wrapping people around his finger yet again. The judicial inquiry is a far more serious matter and should be regarded as such.

  4. Rufus says:

    The whole Tempura mess is classic "Don’t confuse me with the facts… my mind is made up already…"

  5. anon1 says:

    Mr. Evans, you had better watch yourself with these disparaging remarks about the mighty Brittania government or the axe may fall on your head.

    Then again you are one of the lucky ones who is not a British citizen or worst yet one of their British Overseas subjects. With that in mind, please continue to submit informative articles such as this one, we all need to be educated and you have first hand information that is most useful.

    Like yourself, my anteni went up as soon as this team announced that Mr. Seales was a totally innocent victim. What is the definition of Oxymoron anyway?

    • John Evans says:

      I’m a Brit born and breed. Not much else the UK can do to me right now after three attempts to get re-instated in the civil service were stymied because I couldn’t provide a reference from my last employer. LOL, you gotta laugh haven’t you? 

      • anon1 says:

        My apologies John for my assumption. I admire your fortitude as you have already had teh axe fall on your head.

        Keep up the good reporting my friend. You have balls of steel.

  6. Islam is peace. Well, sort of... says:

    Bridger was "very impressed" with Desmond Seales?

    Unbelievable! All he had to do was ask the first ten Caymanians he saw on on any sidewalk about that man’s history and reputation. Or even just one of the publisher’s countless former employees who would have had plenty to say.

    What a joke. Bridger is supposed to be an "investigator"? He certainly doesn’t appear to be any Sherlock Holmes, that’s for sure!

    I wonder what the next big expensive scandal with Seales at the center will be. Hope we can afford it!

  7. Mike Hennessy says:

    Fascinating stuff, John.  It’s rather unnerving when it turns out that the worst possible scenario one can come up with turns out to be true (ask Americans who believed in Richard Nixon or those who were willing to give Bill Clinton the benefit of the doubt).

    I think your concern about a lack of checks and balances on overseas police investigations is well stated, but I think the situation with Justice Levers shows that much the same situation exists within the judiciary.  As long as they play ball and don’t rock the boat, judges can do anything they darn well please.  But if they upset the judicial power structure, they get put through the wringer. 

    The only bright spot in either situation is that a jury returned a verdict of "not guilty".  Those two words are what separate a real criminal justice system from a phony one.  However, the idea that Lyndon Martin could have come so close to spending a long time in Northward over what his Q.C. described as a "dog’s breakfast" of a prosecution is disturbing in itself.

    While I have no reason to believe that Mr. Martin is a saint, it certainly appears to me that this prosecution was a gross injustice and that he deserves some sort of compensation for his expenses and the disruption to his life.  

    A lot of embarrassing dirty laundry has been aired in open, but I am just optimistic enough to hope that some sort of real reform will come out of this mess.  

  8. Anonymous says:

    I would like to thank Mr. Evan’s for a very informative article.

    I hope that someone takes up his recommendation that complaints should be filed with both the IPCC and the MPA. Ideally more than one of the parties so shabbily treated by the SPIT team should complain. In case there is anyone so minded, here are the URLs:



    It is not clear whether ordinary Caymanians can file complaints on the basis of the horrible waste of our scarce resources by SPIT, but if they can, I think that all of us should complain. Does anyone know whether just having taxpayer resources wasted is sufficient to complain?

    • John Evans says:

      I am fairly sure that both the MPA and the IPCC will look sympathetically at any concerns contained in the soon to be released Auditor General’s report on Operation Tempura and, if any attempt is made to restrict public access to it, both bodies can certainly demand to see what he found. One aspect of this that must be considered at some stage is whether the actions of the officers concerned brought the Met into disrepute, and excessive, or unreasonable, expenditure certainly comes into that category.

      Incidentally, if CNS are OK with it I will be happy to deal with reasonable requests for more info on what happened or didn’t happen and fill out any gaps in my comments above.


    • Anonymous says:

      You have the URI wrong for the IPCC

      It’s http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/ 

      Don’t hold your breath for a response though. They are as corrupt as the police are.

      • Anonymous says:

        Any basis for this outrageous statement?  (Other than off course prejudice)

        • John Evans says:

          Agreed. It is unfair to call either the MPA or the IPCC corrupt, some of their decisions may have been a bit perverse but generally they do a very good job. 

        • Anonymous says:

          So why over 100 lawyers quit the Police Action Lawyers Group in protest?

          The entry in Wikipedia says, "In February 2008 over a hundred lawyers who specialise in handling police complaints resigned from its advisory body, citing various criticisms of the IPCC including a pattern of favouritism towards the police, indifference and rudeness towards complainants and complaints being rejected in spite of apparently powerful evidence in their support."

          The IPCC have been found to not even responding to people complaining about the secretive Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC) who abduct people from their homes and lock them up in mental hospitals. Stalin used to do the same thing.