Operation Tempura spin-offs ran up AG’s lawyer bill

| 03/05/2018 | 37 Comments

Operation Tempura(CNS): Acting Solicitor General Reshma Sharma from the Portfolio of Legal Affairs told the Public Accounts Committee Thursday that spin-off litigation from the fall-out of Operation Tempura, a corruption probe into the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, accounted for a significant amount of spending by the Attorney General’s Chambers on outside lawyers’ fees. Appearing before PAC to give evidence on legal affairs’ role in pushing up the spending on consultants, as reported by the auditor general, Sharma pointed to the civil suits coming out of the controversial police corruption probe for running up the legal bill.

PAC is currently examining the findings of a report published in March by the Office of the Auditor General about government’s spending on consultants and temporary staff. The report revealed that more than CI$38.5 million was spent on contracting outside people between June 2012 and June 2017, and around $8.3 million was spent on legal services.

Legal affairs was not responsible for spending all of that, as PAC heard that ministries were contracting their own lawyers as well, but Sharma said that the portfolio had spent around CI$2.7 million during the five-year period and the bulk of that was spent on retaining outside counsel for the civil cases relating to Tempura.

“A significant volume of litigation arose out of Tempura with inter-related cases,” she said, adding that it was an exceptional period of time regarding the litigation that the investigation spawned.

Among the known legal battles that arose was a lawsuit filed by former police commissioner Stuart Kernohan, who was sacked in the fall-out from the discredited probe and eventually settled with government for an undisclosed seven-figure sum. A number of cases surrounding the senior investigating officer for Tempura, Martin Bridger, including legal challenges initiated by former police commissioner David Baines, also pushed up the spending.

The solicitor general was also asked about the lack of written justification by legal affairs when it came to contracting outside staff, as concerns were raised about the obvious irony that the Attorney General’s Chambers were not complying with the new procurement law.

Sharma explained to PAC about the challenges of doing outside business cases and full open competitive procurement for specialist lawyers or legal opinions that might be needed quickly. She said the department tended to work with people they had worked with before or had experience. However, she said that by the end of this quarter the AG’s chambers would have some formal mechanism in place to ensure that there was written justification to support the need for retaining outside counsel in complex cases.

She also explained why a large amount of money had gone to local lawyers HSM Chambers, which Chris Saunders pointed out was one of the firms leading the charge to sue government over immigration decisions.

The solicitor general explained that the work was also for Tempura. She said a member of the AG’s chambers who had worked on the probe left the department to go and work for HSM while the cases were ongoing. As a result a lot of the work went with him because it was better value in the end to keep him on the case than try to start over with a new lawyer, Sharma said.

But with most of the Tempura issues now settled and because that particular lawyer had also left HSM, there would not, in future, be such a large amount of public cash going to that firm.

Asked by the PAC about the overall total spend on the whole Tempura investigation, including the civil cases, Sharma said she could not say, but she had read it was in excess of $10 million.

Government has never given the full figure the Operation Tempura cost to the Cayman Islands, as several lawsuits relating to it have been settled behind close doors. A $10 million estimate was arrived at after the former auditor general, Dan Duguay, estimated that around $7 million had been spent by the middle of 2009.

However, the court cases continued well after that date and some of the legal wrangling has still not been completely resolved. As a result, there have been estimates that the entire cost to the public purse could be closer to $20 million, though no further audit has ever been attempted.

See documents surrounding Operation Tempura in the CNS Library

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Category: Government Finance, Government oversight, Politics

Comments (37)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What IS a disgrace is what is implied by Mr Saunders’s questions, namely that law firms that bring claims to protect individual rights against the government ought to be excluded from the market for government work.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    AG needs to be replaced ASAP.

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    • Observer says:

      Is it accurate to characterize Tempura as “a corruption probe into the RCIPS”, this continuing to give it legitimacy, when In fact the whole debacle rested upon an allegation that turned out to be entirely false?

      For those who do not know what happened here, the case hinged upon an inadvertent transmission, by the-then RCIPS Press Officer, of Gold Command (top level RCIPS) Meeting minutes. When she realized what had happened, she contacted media and asked then to delete.

      Apparently one media (most people will know who) kept the minutes and used it to fuel press articles. That led to false allegations that certain Gold Command officers were leaking sensitive information to that particular newspaper. That was later proven to be false—after damaging reputation of many persons and the Cayman Islands.

      That, ladies and gentlemen, is the “corruption probe into the RCIPS.”

      What a crying shame that those in authority, headed by then-Governor Jack, were so inept and determined to harm Cayman. And succeed they did.

      But isn’t it time that media stop this glib characterization that continues to damage us?!

      Shows how much they care.

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      • Anon says:

        I agree with Observer. It is time to stop the reputational drag on the Cayman Islands by at least more accurately portraying and contextualising what will become a sad footnote to our history.

      • Two Cents says:

        You are spot on Observer.
        If Stuart jack had had the common sense to ask Mr Frank Savage, former Governor of the BVI (1998-2002), how he dealt with Ludwis Wheatley, former Financial Secretary and gained his conviction in 2002, he would have learned that he didn’t need to bring in the Met. In fact, Mr Savage brought into BVI serving police officers from Cayman!
        While I agree that the RCIPS should not have been relied on to investigate itself, the approach that Stuart Jack and the ‘brilliant’ Larry Covington took of entering into an open ended, undefined arrangement with the Met was the fundamental flaw in this whole deal. They were playing Monopoly with our money!
        It was also the thing that Dan Duguay couldn’t be bothered to highlight. Instead, he played to the media gallery about how much the Met cost; not why was the Met used. He obviously didn’t want to offend Stuart Jack who was his employer.
        Most if not all of what has been spent in recent years has been spent trying to protect the FCO (Larry Covington) and the Governor’s office.
        Our impotent political leaders should never have allowed the expenditure of CIG funds. If Duncan Taylor and Helen Kilpatrick wanted defence, they should have had to seek HMG funds.
        See what we get now for it?

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        • Anon says:

          Two Cents@9:46: yes, the real scandal was the action by the governor’s office in bringing in these bungling gold diggers in a response entirely out of proportion to the presenting issues.

          And these Met officers then proceeded to over reach and over extend their remit.

          And we had a governor who had been advised in the first place not to take the initial action in bringing them (by the appropriate authority) here and then gave them free rein to do as much damage as they could. Let them loose in the country to conduct town hall meetings!! Did Jack even think?!!

          Where were the politicians when all of this chaos was being perpetrated?

          Then the funny thing (if it was not so serious) was that the publisher who really set the whole thing in motion in the first place totally pulled the wool over the Met officers’ eyes and had them manipulated to just where he wanted him—pulling the strings.

          The second ironic thing is that the lead Met officer then turned around at the end and said that had he known that the governor had been the one to authorize Kearonhan, the-then commissioner of police to search the publisher’s office, he would have packed up and gone home from the get go.

          Yep, he did say that! Some investigator — had he not asked Kernohan? That would have been my first stop. Second stop, the AG, what did he know —he would also have known what went down — and, then third, what does the constitution says about the powers of the governor relating to authorizing the search?

          And exactly who is this publisher, his character, and can he be trusted?

          Case over— one day’s work and back on British Airways.

          Instead we had basking in the yacht on Seven Mile Beach and bungled investigations resulting in what sounds to me like a some $20 million tab for the Caymanian people — and that is only at face value— think of the reputational damage and pain suffering that continues even today!!

          That is more than enough to drive people insane.

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          • Anon says:

            And, by the way, given that Constitutionally the Governor had the authority to permit the police to conduct certain covert searches (that would include the search of the publisher’s office), the authorized search by the two staff (which admittedly was not the same as two police officers going in) would not have been a very big deal. Even if it evolved into a case and did make its way into the courts, I have it on good authority that, if anything, it would have attracted nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

            It is pathetic that people like Jack uncharge of this country were so incompetent that he allowed what could have been resolved without all this uproar to grow into such a costly smear campaign and blight upon the Cayman Islands.

            A sad, sad footnote to our history of this period– a true reflection of the damaging nature of colonialism.

            You know, when the British were leaving India, they had the temerity to ask Mahatma Gandhi, who ultimately sacrificed his life for his beloved India, whether he was not afraid he would make mistakes.

            Gandhi famously replied, “It least it would be our own mistakes.”
            .

  3. Anonymous says:

    I thought Miss Sharma spoke and came over very well. Quite why Franz and Bulgin are taking so long to put her in the substantive position I do not know. The best attorney in the AG Chambers for a long time.

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    • Anon says:

      Nice try, 10:32 pm. I have read nothing remarkable here im these responses. The questions were straightforward and she answered them. That is all.

      Frankly, I would rather have heard that when the lawyer went to HSM there was no one available to take over the work rather than to hear it was better value to allow him to take a chunk of work with him. Lucky him and fortunate HSM. Could he not have handed over to someone with a bit of planning?

      Don’t buy the explanation at all.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Maybe you should have watched all of the proceedings . And clearly you have never been in PAC facing questions from Mr. Miller etc.
        You clearly have no idea how complex the Tempura case was.

        • Anon says:

          1:45 pm — Actually, I do know that.

          And what does Sharma’s interrogation and her answers have to do with the “complexity” of the Tempura case? That was not the intent of the questions—the questioning was about the AG’s Chamber’s balance sheet, of which Tempura expenditures played a big part. This was not a report on Tempura—so not sure what your point is.

          I don’t know Sharma and I am sure she is competent enough, but let us not try to push other agendas here. We do see what you are trying to do, and it won’t fly.

    • Caymanite says:

      She’s probably not Jamaican so therefore doesn’t qualify

  4. Anonymous says:

    In a real democracy, the people would be privy to the facts.
    In our Caymanian Freemason cabal led by the Master Mason himself, Alden McLaughlin, there are few facts and even less truths.
    It is a disgrace. The Caymanian people have paid for it and they want answers.
    Will they get answers?
    What can they do? Not vote next time and get the same sleazebags?
    Worse than a disgrace, it is an abomination.
    This is a situation that only God can fix and believe me, He will. Alden McLaughlin has built his house upon the sand.

  5. Anonymous says:

    So the government is still paying for what started with a lie so many years ago.

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    • anon says:

      2:49 pm — yep! It was all due to a lie — and then that lie gave way to mountains of deceit. It is unbelievable that it all came down to that’d a setoff monumental bunglers who had no idea how to handle anything with professionalism and finesse.

    • Observer says:

      Bingo, 2:49 pm: the publisher lied to his staff that he was getting info from RCIPS Gold Command Officers when the source was actually from the Gold Command minutes that he should have dumped after they were erroneously transmitted to media.

      Unbelievable that that mistake and subsequent lie cost the country some $20 million and in untold other damages, financial and otherwise.

      Too painful for words.

  6. Anonymous says:

    In hindsight, money would have been better spent suing the BBC, the Guardian, CBC, ICIJ, OECD, FATF, several Hollywood studios and novelists who continued to get editorial and producer approval to spew false narratives, and failed to accurately journal and applaud the massive reforms in Cayman’s tax and PCMLATF of the last three decades. We literally trail blazed agreements, MOUs that established benchmarks, while concurrently, most of the rest of the planet carried on as though it were 1985.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    why have we had the same attorney general (poor poor performing) for the last 20 years. What a joke the government is allowing this mockery to take place. He needs to go along with all the other career politicians ruining this island.

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    • Anonymous says:

      When you have been around that long, with that access to information, you know everyone’s secrets

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t one of the sitting GC judges a former HSM man? geez that firm is everywhere… aren’t they also one of the big firms involved in foreclosure market and some other major debt collection initiatives? Or did I confuse something…

    So…. the AG, the highest legal official in the country, uses outside legal representation, to navigate laws, that were drafted by their office, for a matter brought on by crown police, and Caymanians are footing the bill, but the public doesn’t have access to the full reports?

    how is it women can march for right’s they already have, but Caymanians can’t organize to get stuff like this under control?

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    • Anonymous says:

      If only the government used outside expertise to draft laws, perhaps it would not have to spend so much money on outside expertise fighting over what they do and mean?

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  9. Real House of Pain says:

    If our leaders only had a little balls they would have sued for both operation victory and tempura and ask the UK parliament Hodge and Mitchell to please pay the friggin bills instead of playing footsie with our little economic egg.Infact they have a number of very serious incidents in the recent decade just like these that our so called leadership sat down on and let ride believing we going to get some sort of recognition and relief from these greedy political scions in the motherland.Infact dear premier what about those tremendous efforts to help our fellow territories last year in 2017 hurricane devastation,relieving them yet again of their freaking obligations to the OT’s where was hodge and Mitchell then eh mr premier No we would rather listen to rhetoric from those just like Slick RIck on here with his false information and propaganda and jealousy and contempt for the same instruments that made their capital great and jet set lifestyles flourish and the envy of the rest of the world. Now because of their own sick altruism and greed their societies are failing. Now they have gotten together and decided others must pay because they think it is just or good idea in their opinion.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Would this claim be filed in the Made Up Law Division of the Grand Court or the Fantasy Law Division of the English High Court?

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  10. Anonymous says:

    ha ha ha! who ya gonna call….cay-busters!?

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  11. Anonymous says:

    When reviewing the cost of Tempura don’t forget the $1million-plus that was wasted on the fight to overturn the ICO’s decision to order the release of the Aina report – almost all of that went to private law firms.

  12. Ask Me says:

    How is it that the AG’s Chambers can find money to bring in specialist lawyers and pay them millions but don’t see it fit to pay their in house Counsel a competitive salary. It is rumoured that legal secretaries make more than Crown Counsel. That is a disgrace. I guess that is why there aren’t many Caymanians in those positions and the ones that are there I can only imagine what they are paid. I think an FOI should be done and all this information should be made public!

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  13. Anonymous says:

    That’s an interesting final comment on Tempura. According to reports published elsewhere several years ago a number of people, including former Auditor General Dan Duguay, expressed opinions that the decision not to complete the Tempura/Cealt audit was wrong. Unfortunately, those same reports also indicate that the decision to block a further audit was made by the Governor, Duncan Taylor, who was apparently backed by the FCO. If my memory is correct the FCO position boiled down to, ‘the OAG has more important things to do.’ Based on what has been revealed here you can now see why they didn’t want anyone else digging the dirt on how much that sorry mess had cost us. I’ll bet that, when everything is taken into account, the final bill might be nearer $30million.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Also why are there has never been a Caymanian in the post of Solicitor General, and why Caymanians are not there at all.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because they are not from other Caribbean countries, silly.

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      • Anonymous says:

        11:15 am you hit the nail on the head. Those positions should only be fir 3 years and the door revolves on them. Japan is dependent on workers from other countries but the employees are only allowed to work for 3 years. Time for all permits to have a LIMIT, which would negate status and PR. Why our young people don’t stage a March against injustice? The

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Saunders, it seems HSM only sues the Government when the Government breaks the law. Who is the villain? Please tell us your position. Voters need to know whose side you are on.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I think Saunders point is why are they funding a firm thats acting against them. Fair point. Also why would Caymanian voters care that he has taken this position? Seems like an odd challenge to me.

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      • Anonymous says:

        This is a red herring. The lawyers aren’t suing government, it is their clients. Just because a firm acts in one case against government in one area of law shouldn’t mean that they cannot be retained by government in a case from a different area. There is no conflict as their clients are different.

  16. Anonymous says:

    The PAC should have asked how much of the public’s money was wasted paying the legal costs of those who successfully sued government, particularly when so many cases had no hope of winning. We waste too much money when civil servants and politicians pressure the legal department to pursue hopeless cases just because their egos are involved.

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  17. Tut alors!. says:

    How about getting some information on the costs of lawyers and the costs of settlements on the very large number of people who have successfully sued government. These settlements many of them out of court are always kept under wraps- why?.

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