Cayman Islands attorney general comes in for more criticism

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By Caribbean News Now contributor

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Just weeks after Cayman Islands attorney general, Sam Bulgin, denied allegations that he, along with two other officials, committed misconduct in public office, attempted to pervert the course of justice and lied to police, he has now been blamed in a series of events that led ultimately to the controversial disbarment of a British barrister.

These latest allegations are part of the continuing fallout from a high profile but ill-fated corruption investigation in the Cayman Islands carried out by a team of detectives led by Martin Bridger from London’s Metropolitan Police between 2007 and 2009.

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Martin Polaine

A local attorney in the Cayman Islands initially provided independent legal advice to Bridger and his investigating team; however, following the attorney’s departure from the islands, Bridger reportedly sought advice and subsequently received approval from the attorney general to appoint another legal expert on corruption, British barrister Martin Polaine.

However, Polaine was never called to the Bar of the Cayman Islands or admitted to practice law there.

Polaine was later disbarred in the UK after it was determined he advised the corruption investigators on matters relating to Cayman Islands law – particularly in relation to the 2008 arrest of a sitting Grand Court judge — without being formally admitted to do so.

However, Polaine claimed that he “did not have to be called to the Cayman bar” to advise the Scotland Yard investigators.

Furthermore, Polaine maintained that Bulgin as attorney general was fully aware of his position and approved his engagement yet did nothing to clarify the position to the court.

In May, in a letter to Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor, and copied to the head of Britain’s Diplomatic Service, Commander Allan Gibson of London’s Scotland Yard said that the allegations against Bulgin, former Governor Stuart Jack and Britain’s regional security adviser Larry Covington amount 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."

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Sam Bulgin

In a response, Bulgin said, “There is not a shred of independent or contemporaneous evidence to support such a scurrilous claim and, to the contrary, the documents from that time demonstrate conclusively that the allegation is not true.”

He went on to say that he was considering claims for defamation against those responsible.

The controversy centres on what was the trigger for a high-level corruption investigation in the Cayman Islands by London’s Metropolitan Police detectives – a 2007 burglary purportedly in search of what was portrayed as evidence of collusion between the then deputy commissioner of police and a local newspaper publisher to supply confidential information about sensitive police operations.

The Scotland Yard detectives quickly concluded that no such leak existed but then proceeded to investigate the circumstances of the break-in itself, perpetrated by two employees of the Cayman Net News newspaper, based solely upon the fabricated assertion by one of them that there was such a leak and he had seen the evidence in the publisher’s office.

Following the discovery that then police commissioner Stuart 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.

Meanwhile, the Governor’s Office in the Cayman Islands has said that Taylor does not have the power to order a criminal investigation as recommended by Scotland Yard and has referred the complaint to the Cayman Islands Commissioner of Police David Baines.

However, Baines believes that he and the Cayman Islands police are conflicted as a result of other legal actions relating to the controversial corruption probe.

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