By Caribbean News Now contributor
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands -- In a decision that has been described by local media as part of an “ongoing cover up”, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) has concluded that allegations that a former Cayman Islands governor, the attorney general and a British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) adviser lied to investigators about their level of involvement in an ill-fated corruption investigation are unfounded.
However, the conclusion apparently reached by the RCIPS in response to a criminal complaint against former governor, Stuart Jack; attorney general Samuel Bulgin; and FCO advisor Larry Covington by former Scotland Yard detective Martin Bridger flies in the face of an earlier contrary view reached by London’s Metropolitan Police and a statement by former Cayman Islands police commissioner Stuart Kernohan.
In a complaint dated March 4, 2013, headed “Allegation of Crime”, a redacted copy of which has been seen by Caribbean News Now, Bridger said he wished to make criminal allegations, which he asked the Metropolitan Police to investigate.
The crime involved events that took place in the Cayman Islands between September 2007 and May 2009, he said.
According to the complaint, “The allegation of crime is against [redacted] and possibly FCO officials in the UK.”
In his complaint, Bridger set out the background to his allegations:
“In Sept 2007 I was sent to the Cayman Islands by the then Commissioner of Police to investigate allegations of corruption.
“On the 3rd September 2007 an entry was made into one of the two national newspapers in the Cayman Islands (Cayman Net News) by an employee who bypassed the alarm, entered the building and searched the Editor in Chiefs office looking for material which allegedly would support other corruption allegations. He claimed that the entry had been authorised by the then Commissioner of Police, Stuart Kernohan. Prior to, at the time of and after the entry he was in contact with Detective Chief Superintendent John Jones.
“As a consequence of these circumstances coming to my attention I took independent legal advice as to whether any individual involved had committed an offence. That advice clearly stated that Kernohan and Jones had behaved criminally. This advice was shared with the Governor and the Metropolitan Police. Myself and other Metropolitan police officers, with the agreement of Assistant Commissioner John Yates, commenced a criminal investigation against these two senior officers. They were put on required leave by the Governor whilst the investigation took place. No consultation took place with the RCIPS.
“Unlike the UK, there is no legal framework in the Cayman Islands akin to the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act (RIPA) to authorise and oversee such activity as undertaken by Kernohan and Jones. However, they are required to comply with ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights]. In June of 2007 i.e. prior to the entry Commissioner Kernohan had signed a policy document which stated that when covert activity was undertaken by the police they would operate within the spirit of RIPA.
“As part of my investigative strategy, and at the direction of my independent counsel, I interviewed [redacted] to establish the following:-
“1. What was their knowledge of the entry into Cayman Net News on 3rd Sept?
“2. Did the [redacted] authorise the entry (on any advice or guidance from any FCO officials or the [redacted] in the Cayman Islands).
“Our thought process was that in the absence of any legal framework Kernohan and Jones may, when interviewed, state that they had authority from the [redacted] acting in the role of that of a Surveillance Commissioner.
The [redacted] denied that he had authorised such an entry and that Kernohan and Jones were directly responsible for their behaviour. [Redacted] equally denied providing any advice or guidance about the entry.
“With this documented evidence the investigation proceeded on the basis that Kernohan and Jones had gone on a ‘frolic of their own’ and had behaved unlawfully.
“Since my return from the Cayman Islands in 2009 I have come into possession of direct evidence (in the form of witness statements and other material) which states that [redacted] and in all probability FCO officials in London, misled me and the Metropolitan police. The evidence now available shows that the [redacted] did authorise the entry and that [redacted] was also aware of the circumstances of the entry.
“Had I had known this at the time the investigation would never have proceeded in the way which it did and all of the unfortunate events which have occurred since would not have taken place.”
In alleging that a crime had been committed, Bridger said, “The crime which I am now reporting is in respect of the criminal behaviour of the [redacted] and, possibly, FCO officials.
“They concealed from me, and the Metropolitan Police, the fact that they knew of the circumstances of the entry and that the [redacted] had directly authorised it. As a consequence over a number of months we conducted an investigation on a totally false premise. Had I and Mr Yates been told the truth from the outset the Metropolitan’s Police commitment to the Cayman Islands would have been for a few weeks and not for two years.”
Following the discovery that then police commissioner Kernohan and one of his senior officers had been privy to the break-in as it was taking place, Kernohan was suspended and later terminated.
However, Kernohan has always maintained that knowledge and responsibility for the break-in went above him and has released a comprehensive statement detailing his discussions with Jack, Bulgin and Covington prior to the commission of the illegal entry.
Kernohan’s statement, if true, makes it clear that all three knew of and approved the burglary beforehand. According to Kernohan, Bulgin even concluded initially that there were insufficient grounds to obtain a search warrant but apparently nevertheless went along with the alternative plans for an illegal entry into the premises.
In his formal statement dated April 10, 2013, also seen by Caribbean News Now, Kernohan went into great detail concerning the involvement and prior knowledge of Jack, Bulgin and Covington:
“...I reviewed the information and allegations and worked with Chief Superintendent John Jones, a highly experienced detective and ex Chief Superintendent from the United Kingdom. During this time the main witness made us aware of the existence of a paper documents (emails and such) which allegedly contained direct evidence of a corrupt relationship between [assistant police commissioner] Anthony Ennis and Desmond Seales. He stated this paperwork was within Cayman Net News offices. Later he would narrow that down to a 3" box file within the desk of Desmond Seales.
“I discussed this information with other senior officers including Chief Superintendent John Jones and Larry Covington. We decided that if Desmond Seales became aware of any police enquiry there was a possibility of the documentary evidence being destroyed. It was stated by the witness that the documents were confidential police documentation that were illegally in possession of Desmond Seales. I decided that we should attempt to recover this police documentation and wanted to explore the options. Careful consideration was given to the appropriate methodology for that recovery.
“Two of the preferred options were to make an application for a warrant or have one of the witnesses recover or copy the documents. In terms of the latter, as previously indicated, there was no RIPA legislation in effect. However, if we wished to proceed with that option it could still be carried out under the spirit of the legislation and ECHR. Particular importance was the role of the Governor in any such action on the Cayman Islands. He was the point of contact and level of permission required for intrusive surveillance such as telephone interception and I believe had been used as such in previous operations. The Cayman Islands equivalent of a surveillance commissioner.
“I comprehensively discussed the options and potential action to recover the paperwork with Larry Covington. We discussed the differences between the United Kingdom and the Cayman Islands and the use of participating informants, an area of expertise for Mr Covington due to his previous career experience in the Metropolitan Police Service. We then discussed the importance of involving the Governor Stuart Jack. I set up a meeting with Stuart Jack and the Attorney General Samuel Bulgin specifically to brief them on the allegations and to discuss the use of a witness/member of staff of the Cayman Net News to recover the evidence who had full access and indeed was a senior member of staff.
“I held three meetings with Stuart Jack on 27th, 28th and 29th August 2007. The purpose of these meetings was to fully brief him on all the available information and discuss how to protect evidence prior to the arrival of an outside team.
“The first meeting took place on 27th August 2007 around 1030am. The location was Stuart Jack's office. I took notes of the meeting(s) in my day book. The Attorney General Samuel Bulgin was also in attendance. The Governor had received the comprehensive email from Mr Covington sent that day summarising the information and options.
“I fully briefed the Governor in the presence of Samuel Bulgin. I briefed them on the information from the witness who stated the existence of the documentary evidence. We all agreed on the need for a full investigation and to gather any evidence available at that time which was in danger of being destroyed. We discussed the potential for a warrant and if we should use one of the employee witnesses to copy of recover the documents. I also explained the RIPA legislation that is in existence in the United Kingdom and the differences in the Cayman Islands. We also discussed the sensitivities of the location being a media house.
“Mr Covington's email sent to the Governor on 27th August 2007 had covered some of the issues surrounding recovering the evidence and the use of a witness. This was covered around paragraph 15 "CGIS (1) to assist with identifying and collecting any intelligence or evidence to support the claims..."
Authorisation to Enter the Cayman Net News by Stuart Jack Governor
“Following discussion of the two main options it was agreed that the Attorney General would give us written advice on the viability of making a warrant application as that was the preferred option. However, the Governor agreed that we should recover the evidence and that the use of the CHIS to do so was also authorised. Stuart Jack also stated that he had heard enough to suspend Anthony Ennis. We agreed to reconvene the next day to further consider the AG's considerations.
“The second meeting took place on 28th August 2007 around 1800hrs. Again it was in the office of Stuart Jack. The Attorney General was present and Larry Covington joined the discussion via telephone throughout the whole course of the meeting. We discussed the situation and the Attorney General updated us that he did not consider the warrant application as a viable option due to lack of evidence at this stage. He provided written advise on this. I highlighted that it would be up to a senior police officer to make that judgment on the basis of availability of evidence at that time. This was subsequently agreed by the Attorney General. This was also covered in correspondence between the AG and myself.
“We all discussed the entry into the Net News to copy the crucial police documents by an employee of the Net News and agreed that was the only way forward at that time other than to do nothing until the arrival of the team. This action was again authorised by the Governor. We also agreed to bring in an outside investigation team.
“On 29th August 2007 I met again with Stuart Jack in his office. We again talked through the police action to copy the police documents by the employee from the Cayman Net News. Stuart Jack was provided with the correspondence between the Attorney General and I with respect to an application for a warrant. Basically it had been agreed that a senior officer was to make a decision when to apply. However, again it remained the Attorney General's advice that there was insufficient evidence at that time. We decided to continue with the plan to copy the police documentation by using the employee. This would give us sufficient evidence to either make application for a warrant or hand it over to the incoming team.
“We also agreed at that meeting that Chief Superintendent John Jones should take the role as the interim officer in charge until the outside team arrived on island.
“Chief Superintendent Jones subsequently informed me that he had meetings with Stuart Jack to brief him on the police investigation and in particular the agreed entry into the Cayman Net News. This was all done prior to the date of the entry. These briefings are corroborated and outlined by witness Simon Tonge the Governors Head of Government Office, effectively his "right hand man". I know from statements given to the police investigation that these briefings took place around 29th August / 30th August 2007 that is immediately after my meetings with Stuart Jack.
Evidence/Corroboration of Knowledge of Governor Stuart Jack about Entry into Net News
“Mr Simon Tonge provided a statement to the subsequent police investigation conducted by Chief Superintendent Martin Bridger directly outlining two briefings of Stuart Jack where Simon Tonge was present prior to the entry into the Net News. Simon Tonge specifically states that Chief Superintendent John Jones briefed the Governor Stuart Jack with respect to the police operation to involve a member of staff from the Cayman Net News into the Net News offices during the hours of darkness. This briefing occurred prior to the entry on 3rd September 2007.
Knowledge of Governor Stuart Jack and Others
“There can be no doubt that Governor Stuart Jack was fully briefed, authorised the operation and was fully aware of all the details. These details included the type of operation, whom it involved, when and where it as going to take place. His authorisation and direct knowledge derived from the meetings with myself on three occasions over three days and the meetings with Chief Superintendent John Jones in the presence of witness Simon Tonge on at least two occasions.
Conduct of Stuart Jack at Press Briefing In 2008
“I would also like to bring to your attention the conduct of Stuart Jack at a press briefing which was given shortly after my placement on administrative leave (suspension}. This relates to his answer to a direct question asked to him by a Mr David Legge, a member of the press, during the press briefing.
“Mr Legge asked Stuart Jack if he had any knowledge of the police operation to enter the Net News on 3rd September 2007. Mr Jack in front of many witnesses, stated that he had only become aware of the operation on being briefed on it by Chief Superintendent Bridger after his arrival on the island. Mr Jack's answer gave the clear impression that he was without knowledge of the entry either prior to 3rd September 2007, or afterwards until the arrival of Chief Superintendent Bridger. This was clearly not the case.”
In a similar statement to the Metropolitan Police last year, former superintendent Jones alleged that Jack had attempted to “deliberately conceal” the level of his involvement in the break-in and illegal search of the Cayman Net News offices in September 2007.
As a result of Bridger’s complaint, Commander Allan Gibson of London’s Metropolitan Police wrote to then Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor, and copied to the head of Britain’s Diplomatic Service, saying that the allegations against Jack, Bulgin and Covington amounted to possible "misconduct in public office, attempting to pervert the course of justice and possibly wasting police time.”
Gibson wrote, “It is my view the allegations are serious and contain sufficient detail to warrant a criminal investigation."
However, although Scotland Yard called for an inquiry, it said it could not carry it out because it was "conflicted" owing to its former officers' initial involvement. It indicated a non-British force should be brought in but this recommendation was apparently ignored.
Meanwhile, Kernohan has received a reported $600,000 from the Cayman Islands government in an out of court settlement over his claim of unlawful dismissal during the corruption investigation. This payout by Cayman Islands taxpayers has been described locally as the price of Kernohan’s “silence” on the issue, although in the light of his 2013 statement that ship seems to have sailed already.
Any worthwhile investigation into the affair could also raise difficult questions for senior FCO officials in London about what they knew, and whether or not they were involved in withholding information.
The FCO is already fighting in the courts to block release of a document that could expose its attempts to avoid blame for the original bungled police inquiry. FCO officials have declined to release an inquiry report because its "disclosure could lead to a loss of confidence within the international community which could impact negatively on the Cayman Islands' reputation and, more directly, on its financial services industry".