By John Donovan
Corporate espionage: Shell Cloak and Dagger activities spanning more than two decades – much of it directed against me
- Infiltrated spies into the Nigerian government
- Was responsible for covert operations against Greenpeace and other perceived enemies, using a serving secret service agent freelancing for a private spy firm closely connected with Shell
- Employed private security contractors on the Corrib Gas Project to carry out surveillance operations in Ireland against the public and the press
- Secretly applied pressure to The Sunday Times and The Financial Times in an attempt to suppress news coverage about me
In a recent Daily Mail article about Shell’s takeover bid for the BG Group, reference was made to a ‘cloak and dagger’ meeting between Shell’s chief executive Ben van Beurden and the chairman of BG Group, Andrew Gould, at The Dorchester Hotel.
It was obviously an important commercially sensitive meeting, but it hardly compares with the real ‘cloak and dagger’ activity for which Shell has been responsible over the decades, some of it directed at me and my late father, Alfred Donovan.
He was still the target of Shell cloak and dagger activity into his 90’s.
During one period, we were besieged by undercover activity, partly as a form of intimidation.
My definition of undercover activity is someone operating under false credentials for the purposes of gathering information/intelligence under false pretences.
We successfully identified one Shell undercover agent and cornered Shell into admitting in writing that the person in question was working for Shell.
Unfortunately, he was not the only enquiry agent involved as a Shell lawyer delighted in pointing out.
A LONG RELATIONSHIP WITH SHELL WHICH TURNED SOUR
We had a business relationship with Shell stretching back over 35 years.
Unfortunately a mutually beneficial association on an international basis turned sour and most of the 1990’s were spent in acrimony and litigation. We brought six High Court cases against Shell for IP theft/breach of contract and two for libel. All were settled by Shell, but without successfully bringing an end to the residual mutual ill-feeling.
Some of the more recent activity appears to have been triggered by Shell’s anxiety about me learning too much about its dark history. Recent newspaper articles have mentioned my pending book about Shell’s Nazi past, which has already drawn threats from the Company Secretary of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mr. Michiel Brandjes.
Suffice it to say that one of Ben van Beurden’s predecessors Sir Henri Deterding, who became an ardent Nazi, spent 4 days as an honoured guest of his friend, Adolf Hitler, at Berchtesgaden. An agent subsequently engaged in sinister activities jointly for Hitler and Sir Henri.
HIGH COURT ACTIONS
Shell first used an investigative resource in respect of two high court actions we brought against Shell in 1994. This is mentioned on page 3 (paragraph 4) of a letter dated 15 June 1998 that I sent to Dr Chris Fay, the then Chairman & Chief Executive of Shell UK Limited. It was also copied to Shell lawyers.
“Shell did retain an investigative specialist in connection with the previous litigation. They made investigations about me going back over a decade.”
Hence the investigative activity instigated by Shell started around two decades ago and may still be in progress.
I can only cite the activity that we became aware of intermittently through the years. It seems reasonable to assume that most of the activity has remained hidden.
It was frighteningly visible during the run up to a High Court trial in 1999. Our case against Shell, including witnesses and evidence, was scrutinised by undercover agents acting under false pretences in the course of their cloak and dagger missions.
Such activity was totally at odds with Shell senior management pledges of honesty, integrity and openness in all of Shell’s dealings, as set out in Shell’s much trumpeted Statement of Business Principles. Apparently the ethical code does not apply when Shell is involved in litigation. Instead, it is a no holds barred contest on the part of Shell. Ethics no longer apply.
I reminded Shell directors from time to time about the failure to uphold the claimed principles.
TITLED SHELL DIRECTORS WERE SPYMASTERS
I did so for example in a letter I circulated to all directors of Shell Transport and Trading Company Plc at their home addresses e.g. this letter to Sir Peter Holmes MC dated 23 April 1998. It was sent just days after serving a high court writ on Shell in respect of the Shell Smart Loyalty card scheme.
The letter contained a reference to an article in The Financial Mail on Sunday newspaper – “Shell card in legal row.” I also supplied a multipage feature that had just been published in Marketing Week magazine – “High Court Papers unveil ‘secret’ Shell writ losses”.
Sir Peter (now deceased) was a former Group Chairman of the Royal Dutch Shell Group and had remained as a non-executive director.
I had no idea at the time that he and a fellow titled director of Shell Transport and Trading Company plc (Sir William Purves), were also the spymasters, directors and major shareholders in Hakluyt, a London based corporate espionage firm set up partly by Shell and BP and staffed mainly by former MI6 officers.
This is confirmed in pages 111, 142 and 157 of a book about corporate espionage authored by Eveline Lubbers and published in 2012:
“Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: Corporate and Police Spying on Activists”
In 1995, Shell International was one of Hakluyt’s first clients (page 143 of the Lubbers book).
According to information on pages 9, 144 and 145, the information gathered by the cloak and dagger activity was used to develop corporate counter-strategy, including bringing a counterclaim lawsuit.
As is stated on page 9: “– a corporation does not spy on its critics just to know what is going on: it does so to be prepared and to defend itself.”
This is exactly what happened in our case.
I will return to the subject of Hakluyt later.
THE NEPTUNE STRATEGY
It is relevant to point out that we were not the first critics of Shell to be the subjects of cloak and dagger activity. According to the same book, in 1987, Shell Oil Co implemented a secret 265 page ultra devious plan devised by a Washington based firm, Pagan International.
The ‘Neptune Strategy” was designed to undermine support for critics of Shell’s policy of propping up the despised racist apartheid regime in South Africa. On page 67, Lubbers reveals that Shell had secret meetings with church delegates. The revelations on page 68 are even more damning, with The Church of England accusing Shell of dishonesty and outright deception.
The last paragraph of Page 74 sets out how Royal Dutch Shell tried to publicly separate itself from the activities of Shell Oil Company in regards to the Neptune Strategy, but evidence showed that this was just a deception.
I also have evidence of similar deception by Shell Oil Company and Royal Dutch Shell Plc in relation to an email I sent to Bill O’Reilly of Fox News about Shell sanctions busting in relation to Iran.
MORE SHELL “CLOAK-AND-DAGGER ESCAPADES”
On 12 September 2001, under the headline: “No Secret’s Safe From These Sharp Eyes”, The New York Times published an interesting article focused on corporate “cloak-and-dagger escapades”. Mr Stephen J. Wade, an executive of Shell International Exploration and Production, a Royal Dutch/Shell Group business, was revealed as being a “competitive intelligence analyst — management-speak for corporate America’s equivalent of a spy”. The report said that Mr Wade “uses every trick in the book” and “may even dish out erroneous information…” Mr Wade was quoted as commenting: It isn’t James Bond. The article went on to say: “Still, like any good spy, Mr Wade declined to give detailed examples of information gleaned this way”. It also pointed out that corporate spying “sometimes skirts ethical bounds”.
Mr Charles Hoots
A gentleman called Mr Charles Hoots contacted my solicitor, Mr Richard Woodman of the City of London law firm Royds on Friday 15th May 1998. He purported to be a journalist representing “The European” newspaper (long defunct). Mr Hoots phoned me shortly thereafter from Paris using the same cover story. He had visited our website and wanted to write an article for The European about the litigation with Shell. I had lunch with him at a restaurant in Bury St Edmunds.
Because I became suspicious about Mr Hoots, I telephoned Lynn Moorlen, the editor of The European. She was shocked at hearing the claim made by Mr Hoots that he was representing her newspaper.
This is an extract from her response letter:
“Further to our conversation today, I would like to confirm that we have not commissioned Charles Hoots to write for The European on any subject for almost two years. However, having taken legal advice from our lawyers we will be taking this matter up with him. I hope this explains our position and clarifies any uncertainty that may have arisen.”
A UK national newspaper, The Guardian, subsequently investigated Mr Hoots.
A senior person at the paper, Paul Brown (if I recall his name correctly), told me that Charles Hoots had not written any articles for some time and that in their opinion he was probably a “spook” (his term) working under the cover of being a journalist.
Mr “Christopher Phillips”
An agent using the name “Christopher Phillips” made an undercover visit to our business centre offices in Bury St Edmunds. He was spotted by an office administrator, Marie Neal, in the act of scrutinising the pigeon holes used for storing arriving mail. The scope and unusual nature of his questions about us raised suspicion about the true purpose of his visit. At this point he presented what turned out to be fake credentials.
“Daniel Wilson” incident on 9 June 1998
On Tuesday 9th June 1998, my solicitor, Mr Richard Woodman, received a telephone call from a Mr “Daniel Wilson”, who claimed that he represented The Daily Express newspaper. Mr Wilson said that he had visited our website. He had originally intended to write a story about the way that the Internet was used in the “McLibeI” case. He now intended to focus on our story. The article would be published the following day, Wednesday 10th June. He repeatedly pressed Mr Woodman to answer some questions about the litigation. Mr Woodman refused to do so. Mr Wilson left a telephone number for me to call. When I did so, it became apparent that the number did not exist. I telephoned The Daily Express and spoke to several people. None had ever heard of Daniel Wilson. No article was published about websites in the paper on the date quoted. “Mr Wilson” never called again.
Anonymous Call received 14 June 1998
On Sunday 14 June, I received a telephone call from a gentleman who refused to disclose his name. When I stated that I was not prepared to hold a conversation on that basis, he indicated that if I gave him a few minutes, it would become obvious that he has an intimate knowledge of the litigation and associated events. I would learn something to my advantage. Intrigued by his introduction, I listened to what he had to say.
An account of the call was contained in a letter my father sent to Mark Moody-Stuart (the then Group Chairman of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group) in November 1998.
In June, threats were made against my family and potential key witnesses, during an anonymous call from a London payphone. Shell UK Legal Director, Mr Richard Wiseman, denied that anyone at Shell had any connection with the incident. However, It was evident from his subsequent actions that he had doubts about the veracity of his denial. Details about the call, including the location of the payphone, were uncovered as a result of Investigations by the Police, a BT Investigations Unit, and a national newspaper, The Guardian, which obtained and examined closed circuit TV videos from a local bank. Unfortunately they were unable to identify the caller. The anonymous caller had inside knowledge of Shell’s secret plans to go on the offensive against us. He not only disclosed that Shell was about to bring a Counterclaim, he even mentioned the grounds on which it was subsequently brought. Beyond any doubt, the caller was someone closely involved with Shell. Mr Wiseman evidently concluded that this was the case, as he launched an internal investigation at Shell-Mex House and personally Interviewed AJL, the key Shell manager in all of the four High Court Actions my son has brought against Shell (three of which Shell has already settled). The accuracy of the Information the caller disclosed was clearly designed to prove his credibility and the potency of his threats.
(I have substituted initials for the name of the relevant Shell manager questioned by Richard Wiseman)
CONFRONTING SHELL ABOUT THE CLOAK & DAGGER ACTIVITY
On 15 June 1998 I faxed a 6 page letter to Dr Chris Fay, the then Chairman of Chief Executive of Shell UK Limited. I sent copies to Mark Moody-Stuart, Richard Wiseman and Colin Joseph of DJ Freeman. I set out in the letter the sinister events that had taken place, involving Charles Hoots, Christopher Phillips, Daniel Wilson and the anonymous call.
I received a response from Colin Joseph with the following opening sentence: “I have been asked to respond to your letter of 15th June addressed to Dr Fay.”
The letter mentioned Mr Hoots and the anonymous call. There was no mention of Daniel Wilson or Christopher Phillips and no admission that Shell had any connection with ANY of the sinister events that led me to call in the police.
On 18 June, my solicitor, Richard Woodman, transmitted a letter to DJ Freeman, which put Shell in a corner.
We enclose for your information a letter which we have sent to a Company called Cofton Consultants, the contents of which are self-explanatory.
We should be most grateful if you could confirm that Shell has and never has had any connection with this Company whether in relation to John Donovan, Don Marketing UK Limited, the current or past litigation, or in any other respect.
The following day DJ Freeman faxed a response admitting for the first time that both DJ Freeman and Shell were aware of Christopher Phillips and claimed he was making “routine credit enquires” in connection with the litigation. In the same letter, Shell’s solicitors said that neither they nor Shell had any knowledge of the other incidents. They made particular reference to the anonymous call.
Extracts from a faxed response by Royds Treadwell:
If “routine credit enquiries” were indeed the sole ambit of the brief given by your firm to Cofton Consultants then perhaps you would supply us with a copy of your letter of instruction so that everyone can be satisfied about what you say. Neither do we accept that such enquiries are “normal” in litigation.
As you can imagine we have taken detailed instructions from our Client about the extremely disturbing anonymous telephone call he received ten days ago. We are entirely satisfied that this call could only have been made by someone connected with your Clients or fully briefed by them. The caller accurately informed John Donovan that your Clients were using private enquiry agents, accurately informed John Donovan that your Clients had retained the services of Shandwick Public Relations and Tequila (both of whom have recorded a number of visits to our Client’s website); accurately recounted the events which had taken place at Shell’s AGM; and (probably) accurately recounted Dr Fay’s anger on that occasion.
The caller also stated that your Clients were “fed up with” the campaign which supports the litigation (particularly the “colourful website”) and threatened that if this continues not only would the litigation prove financially ruinous to Mr Donovan, he and his family would be “endangered”.
Richard Wiseman, also confirmed in writing that “Christopher Phillips” was working for Shell. I asked him if “Christopher Phillips” had engaged in surveillance or phone tapping activities directed against us. He ducked the question by stating:
So far as the visit of Mr Phillips is concerned, and his instructions, we will, as D J Freeman have said, co-operate with the police to the utmost extent.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, we were never given sight of the brief issued in respect of the visit by “Christopher Phillips,” who obtained information under false pretences, using fake credentials.
Colin Joseph made it plain in a letter dated 3 July 1998, that Phillips was not the only person involved in making enquiries on Shell’s behalf.
If, nevertheless, the police wish to obtain any further information from my clients or from anyone involved in enquiries on their behalf, including Mr Phillips, then, as has been said on several previous occasions, the fullest of co-operation will be given.
The revelation that Phillips was apparently just one of an undisclosed number of agents making enquiries was intimidating and no doubt meant to be so.
Shell lawyers were unwilling to disclose how many agents were involved, or what they were doing on Shell’s behalf.
The excuse given on one occasion of making “routine credit enquiries” does not stand up. Routine credit enquiries can be made instantaneously using modern technology. The questions Phillips asked staff about us had nothing to do with credit enquiries. Their agent was clearly engaged in gathering information about my family and me, asking for example the purpose our frequent visits to the USA.
THE SPATE OF BURGLARIES
The initial underhand activity soon turned into something even more sinister.
My main witness, Mr Roger Sotherton, returned home one evening to discover that his house had been burgled and that someone had examined his files on the case.
When I reported this astonishing development to my solicitor Richard Woodman, he shocked me by revealing that his home in South London had also been burgled.
A short time later, on 13 October 1998, my house was also broken into.
The burglaries were referred to in the aforementioned letter my father sent to Mark Moody-Stuart in November 1998.
Now we have the latest bombshell – the burglaries carried out against people associated with our SMART claim, including key witnesses. Brief cases have been forced open, papers examined, including privileged documents between DM and its lawyers. The latter included a brief issued to Dr Mary Vitoria QC – a document Shell’s lawyers recently failed to obtain after making an application to the Courts (which was dismissed with costs).
Personal and company bank statements for Don Marketing and its current and former Directors have also been examined. Such information goes beyond the bounds of “routine credit enquiries.” One burglary was carried out at a house that Mr Hoots was keen to visit. The Police have been notified of the burglaries and of the circumstances linking all of them.
My father received a response from DJ Freeman on behalf of Moody-Stuart, confirming that Shell had carried out an internal investigation into the threatening call and also indicated that Shell only became aware of the burglary at the home of Roger Sotherton after being contacted by a journalist from the Guardian newspaper.
Although I lived in Suffolk and Roger Sotherton lived in Norfolk, the police used the same forensic team at both locations.
I received a letter dated 16 October 1998 from a Sector Commander of Suffolk Police, S J Gates, supplying information, including a Crime Reference code.
All of the burglaries across Southern England took place within a matter of weeks leading up to the 1999 trial in which Shell had brought counter-claims against my father and me (claims later abandoned by Shell).
The police investigated the whole series of events, including the anonymous telephone call. They interviewed staff at Shell-Mex House, including AJL.
The Police eventually advised me off the record that despite the fact that they had concluded there had been a criminal conspiracy against us, it was unlikely that it could ever be proved to the satisfaction of a Court.
Shell and DJ Freeman admitted in writing the activities of Christopher Phillips, but denied knowledge of all other events and related individuals.
SHELL SENIOR DIRECTORS “IN THE LOOP”
As is evident from the letter I received from Richard Wiseman dated 1 July 1998, Mark Moody-Stuart and Dr Chris Fay, the then Chairman and Chief Executive of Shell UK Limited., were both in the loop regarding the discussions about undercover activity.
IMPACT ON THE 1999 HIGH COURT TRIAL
The burglary activity did have an impact on the trial. Roger Sotherton, whose evidence was crucial to my case, was not his normal self when giving evidence during the trial. Although he confirmed the main facts, his evidence was given in a rambling manner that did not inspire confidence. His memory was called into question because he could not recall something that had happened a few days earlier during the trial. When pressed at one point in his cross-examination, he testified under oath that Shell papers in his possession were tampered with during the burglary at his house. He also referred to the burglaries at the homes of other people involved in the litigation. He was clearly frightened by the series of sinister events.
Another one of my key witnesses backtracked on evidence he had planned to give after he became aware that he had also been the victim of an interview under false pretences by Mr Hoots. He omitted the most vital evidence relating to a Shell executive who took early retirement on medical grounds from his long-serving position as a Shell National Promotions Manager. The gentleman in question had expressed reservations about the ethics of AJL and Shell.
Due to the intimidatory tactics used by Shell, the evidence of all of my potential key witnesses was undermined, neutralised or not given at all.
A file of self-explanatory communications between 9 June 1998 and 26 October 1998, provide a detailed contemporary account of some of the events I have described.
John Donovan letter to The European: 9 June 1998
Letter from John Donovan to DJ Freeman Solicitors 18 June 1998
Letter from DJ Freeman 19 June 1998
Royds Treadwell letter to DJ Freeman 23 June 1999
(Includes my question asking if Phillips had engaged in surveillance or phone tapping activities against me.)
DJ Freeman letter to Royds Treadwell 24 June 1998
(Mr Wiseman confirms Phillips was instructed by Shell/DJ Freeman but ignored my question about whether the instructions included authorisation of surveillance or phone tapping activities against me.)
Press Statement issued by Don Marketing 25 June 1998
(Extract: Mr Phillips enquiries at the business centre involved a straightforward deception of the receptionist.)
Don Marketing Letter to Turners Enquiry Services: 25 June 1998
Turner Investigators letter to Don Marketing 26 June 1998
(Extract: “So far as, I have been able to discover, nobody in any Shell company has any knowledge of Mr Hoots.” Note letter copied to Mark Moody-Stuart, the Group Chairman and Dr Chris Fay, the CEO and Chairman of Shell UK Limited.)
Letter from DJ Freeman to Don Marketing 3 July 1998
(Extract: “If, nevertheless, the police wish to obtain any further information from my clients or from anyone involved in enquiries on their behalf, including Mr Phillips, then, as has been said on several previous occasions, the fullest of co-operation will be given.”)
(Extracts: “Both Mr Joseph and I have denied any Shell involvement in any of the intimidation you allege. The activities of Mr Phillips have, of course, been admitted.“: “Neither you, your family, nor any potential witness, has any cause for physical fear as a result of your prosecuting this case with all the vigour we have come to expect.“
DJ Freeman letter to John Donovan Don Marketing 9 July 1998
Don Marketing letter to Marketing Week 21 July 1998
Letter from Don Marketing to Bury St Edmunds Police 22 July 1998
Turner Investigators letter to Don 5 August 1998
DJ Freeman letter to Don Marketing 7 August 1998
DF Freeman letter to Don Marketing 11 August 1998
(Confirms internal investigation by Shell)
Letter to John Donovan from Suffolk Police: 16 October 1998
(Further confirmation of an internal investigation by Shell)
Don Marketing letter to Office for Supervising of Solicitors 26 August 1998
When an investigative journalist working on the planned Guardian article (Mr Simon Rines) had a subsequent meeting on 10 September 1998 at Shell-Mex House with Mr Wiseman, Mr Joseph and a representative from Shell’s media department, both sides tape recorded the interview. A letter my father sent to Colin Joseph on 23 November 1998 makes reference to the meeting and what was discussed.
Hakluyt is a corporate intelligence company based in London founded by former senior officers of the British Secret Service, in close association with Shell.
I had no idea when the cloak and dagger activity against me was in progress that titled Shell directors were at that time, also the spymasters, directors and major shareholders in Hakluyt.
Sir Peter Holmes was President of the Hakluyt Foundation, which supposedly had an oversight function, while Sir Will Purves was Chairman of Hakluyt & Company.
These two Knights of the realm were no doubt probably amused by our public complaints about the spying given their personal involvement with Hakluyt.
A Hakluyt director is on record as stating that it is their normal modus operandi to bring in operatives from overseas to engage in spying/intelligence gathering activities. The undercover agents then conveniently leave the legal jurisdiction in which such activities have taken place.
Hakluyt sometimes uses serving secret service agents who carry out assignments on a freelance basis.
Hakluyt also uses investigative journalists for intelligence gathering activities – a perfect cover. See this article from July 2008 about Hakluyt recruiting journalists as spies.
The following are extracts from an article about Hakluyt published by the FT on 23 March 2000 under the headline: “Masters of the great game turn to business”
“The company has over 100 “associates” on its books – some based in London, others at stations worldwide, formed by personal contacts, whose judgement the directors trust absolutely. They might be investigative journalists…”
“When Hakluyt receives an assignment, it calls up to five associates back to London to be briefed and then “deploys” them.”
According to the aforementioned Lubbers book (page 142) “Each associate is given different questions and works independently”.
Extracts from an article about Hakluyt published by The Scotsman on 20 January 2003 under the headline: “Intelligence firm with an air of mystery” are also illuminating:
At its centre lies a British-based private intelligence firm, with close links to MI6 – and distaste for any sort of publicity.
Last year MPs called on Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, to investigate the company following newspaper revelations that Hakluyt spied on green pressure groups in order to pass information about them to oil production companies Shell and BP.
It emerged that Hakluyt had employed a German spy, who posed as a left-wing sympathiser and film- maker, in order to betray plans by Greenpeace against oil companies.
The affair left MPs questioning whether secret intelligence services used the firm as a front to spy on green groups.
Hakluyt has denied claims by some in the intelligence community that it was started by MI6 officers to carry out “deniable” operations.
Remember, I knew nothing about Hakluyt during the period when the litigation was in progress, the period when the sinister events took place.
It is relevant to note that two years later, The Sunday Times ran a front page lead story about Shell/Hakluyt espionage operations conducted on an international basis against Shell’s perceived enemies, including Greenpeace, The Body Shop and Nigerian activists.
PDF version of Sunday Times front page article in 17 June 2001 exposing these activities.
Sir Peter Holmes and Sir William Purves were both listed as being in attendance at the AGM in 1995 during my fathers exchange with John Jennings.
Despite all that happened, Shell did not disclose to the Police, or to me, its close association with Hakluyt, an organisation skilled in the intelligence gathering tactics that had been directed against us, which were, as indicated, used against other parties also perceived to be enemies of Shell.
We received a carefully drafted denial from Hakluyt of any knowledge of Hakluyt involvement in our case by its MD, Christopher James, but no outright denial.
On page 146 of the Eveline Lubbers book, several examples are provided of Hakluyt making denials that proved to be false. Hakluyt only made admittances when confronted with irrefutable evidence of their involvement. In all other circumstances it seems they are happy to lie. Lubbers also confirmed that Shell is still a client of Hakluyt.
The bizarre circumstances of our dealings with the then Hakluyt MD, a former senior MI6 officer, and the letter we received from him, carefully crafted by a titled lawyer, Sir Anthony Hammond KCB QC – only added to the intrigue. More on this later.
IAN FORBES MCCREDIE OBE
A former senior MI6 officer of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), Ian Forbes McCredie OBE was until December 2010, Vice President of Corporate Security for Royal Dutch Shell aka Shell Corporate Affairs Security (CAS). A retired senior FBI official, Richard T. Garcia, was Global Security Manager for Shell Americas. A very senior person within Shell Global Security, a former spook, contacted me with insider information and confirmed that he was involved in monitoring my website activities. I have all of the correspondence with this individual.
Mr McCredie is closely associated with Hakluyt. When I sent an email to him at Shell, I received a response from his Hakluyt email address.
As can be seen from his CV (as of 4 July 2014) he was responsible for Shell’s confidential information, reputation, information theft and dealing with cyber and insider threat. The latter responsibility no doubt brought me to his attention.
To summarise, Mr Hoots came to the UK specifically to gather information about my case against Shell and incurred substantial costs. He never approached Shell to find out their side of the story, only my solicitor, my witnesses and me. He never published an article. He used false pretences when speaking to all of us and gained access to an array of documents. I later found out that his modus operandi was entirely in keeping with the common method of operation by undercover agents engaged in corporate espionage.
Other parties have been the victims of alleged spying activity by Shell.
The following is an extract from a statement published by John Alfred Dyer:
In 1993, following five years of research, my findings resulted in the commissioning of a television program for ‘Carlton Television’. Shell quickly responded. Investigators kept me under surveillance. My telephone was tapped. My mail was intercepted, and destroyed and/or kept. At the same time, Shell filed a seemingly endless line of complaints about my own alleged conduct, to the Independent Television Commission (UK regulatory authority), Carlton, and others.
A former producer of the TV investigative programme World in Action, Laurie Flynn, has confirmed to me the accuracy of these allegations. Pressure was successfully applied by Shell to prevent the programme being aired.
In the summer of 2008, Shell was accused of being responsible for surveillance operations directed at members of the local population in Ireland protesting against the Shell led Corrib Gas Project. The story was covered in The Irish Times and elsewhere.
The most recent Shell instigated spying of which I am aware, was directed at:
- my father and me
- our website
- Shell’s own employees on a global basis – partly I assume in an attempt to trace our insider sources and identify Shell staff visiting our website.
Some of the Shell cloak and dagger activities against us was covered in a Reuters news article in 2009.
As a result of Subject Access Requests we made to Shell under the Data Protection Act 1998, Shell was legally obligated to supply us with internal documents and communications in which our names were mentioned.
We discovered from this information that the entirely lawful campaigning on our part had triggered another bout of sinister activity by Shell targeting my family and our website activity.
Information about setting up a counter-measures team (“round table working group”) was contained in a confidential Shell internal email dated 9 March 2007. As can be seen, the tone was decidedly aggressive.
In a Shell internal email dated 19 March 2007, the unidentified author states: “I have contacted some of my sources in the USG and in London to see if they have anything else on the brothers, but that may take a few days for their response. We will monitor any fallout from this.”
“USG” is believed to be a reference to the U.S. Government.
In a Shell internal a few days later, dated 20 March 2007 Shell security staff discussed whether to set up “an information security tasking to discover where exactly in Shell their (good) sources are located.” Amusingly, the same email contained a spectacular endorsement of the website, which its author obviously never intended for public consumption:
John and Alfred Donovan well known in UK / Hague. They perceive Shell played them and so have made it their mission to embarrass, belittle and criticize Shell, which they do quite well. Their website, royaldutchsellplc.com is an excellent source of group news and comment and I recommend it far above what our own group internal comms puts out.
It ended up being quoted in the same Reuters news article.
The following day, in a Shell internal email dated 21 March 2007 marked “Donavan CONFIDENTIAL”, there was confirmation that Shell had undertaken a global spying operation against its own employees in an attempt to discover the identity of employees supplying me with Shell insider information. The spying plan included monitoring “Shell servers globally to Donovan” and “monitoring web traffic to determine internal traffic to their website. There is history of several former employees taking internal laundry to Donovan also, internal e-mails have appeared on his website.”
The primary objective was to stop Shell “internal laundry” from being aired online.
A Shell internal email dated 31 August 2007 said that Shell employees had been instructed not to visit our website.
We also discovered that from 2006 onwards Shell secretly kept and regularly updated “Focal Point” information about my father and me, and our activities.
In 2007 (& 2010) – Shell secretly considered putting pressure on national newspapers concerning my activities
In February 2007, Shell stated an intention in an internal email to put pressure on The Sunday Times to “kill” an article about our intervention in the Sakhalin 2 project (which according to The Sunday Times article cost Shell £11 BILLION). The entire content of the article was read out to me on a Saturday morning by Steven Swinford, the then Sunday Times journalist and the paper was due to go to press later that day. The article included an interview with a Russian Government minister Oleg Mitvol. I had supplied him with leaked Shell internal communications. Mr Mitvol made damaging comments about Shell management during the interview. By coincidence or otherwise, the article was duly killed. Shortly thereafter The Sunday Times published a spectacular full colour Shell/Ferrari advertorial.
On 27 July 2010, Shell discussed the possibility of applying pressure to the Financial Times concerning me and my website.
In September 2010 Shell engaged in correspondence with an unknown party about my activities and accused my father and me of blackmailing Shell.
The blackmail allegation was totally without foundation. We have never sought any payment from Shell since the High Court litigation ended in 1999. All of our website actively has always been operated on an entirely non-profit basis.
It is evident from the SAR generated information that Shell transmitted information about me across national borders.
Shell Oil Company in the USA sought and obtained information about us from Royal Dutch Shell Plc in Europe. They thought we were brothers.
A confidential Shell internal email dated 17 June 2009 mentioned “CAS” (Shell Corporate Affairs Security) and “NCFTA”. I have reason to believe this is a reference to the National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance, a Pittsburgh-based organisation, whose website says it is supported by Fortune 500 companies and that its purpose is to help tackle cyber fraud. It was founded and is partly funded and staffed by the FBI. The email discussed ”investigations” relating to the royaldutchshellplc.com website and me, stating: “There will be no attempt to do anything visible to Donovan”. The implication being that the “investigations” would be invisible.
IN JUNE 2007 SHELL ACTED SECRETLY TO CLOSE DOWN OUR WEBSITE
In June 2007, Shell secretly threatened legal proceedings against our website server hosting companies in Canada and the USA. The threats resulted in the royaldutchshellplc.com website being deactivated on 25 June 2007.
Although initially unwilling to disclose who had made the threats, each hosting company reluctantly confirmed that it was Shell.
Keith Ruddock, a then Royal Dutch Shell General Counsel later confirmed in an email to me dated 26 June 2007 that Shell was responsible for the machinations, which briefly shut down the website under the pretext of a copyright violation. See related article containing the email correspondence.
Because of speculation at the time over a Shell/BP merger, we had featured a combined satirical Shell/BP logo. Our website and many others have been publishing the Shell Pecten ever since without Shell taking any copyright action.
Denial of service attacks on the website
From 2008, the website came under sustained denial of service attack – flooding the site with traffic, so that demand overloaded the server. By March of that year, the attacks had become so disruptive that I sent an email to Michiel Brandjes, officially notifying Shell of what was going on.
I thought it possible that if cyber attack specialists/hackers had been retained by Shell, they would be concerned at Shell senior management being made officially aware of what was going on and therefore being drawn into the matter. Mr Brandjes knew nothing about the attacks, but by coincidence of otherwise, the attacks immediately ceased. They have resurfaced from time to time.
Shell still harboured ambitions to close down the website. The author of a Shell internal email dated 15 July 2009 raised the subject, asking: “are you doing anything to get the website shut down?”
In December 2009, I notified Essex police of concerns arising from the involvement of Shell Corporate Affairs Security, the monitoring of our website and Shell’s action in briefly closing it down. A senior local officer sought advice from Special Branch and the police Covert Investigations department. Detective David Nash, from a police Hi-Tech Crime Unit carried out an investigation, but because time had passed before we reported the events in question, technical information from our hosting company was “long gone”, and data from our server had been deleted or overwritten. Such information is apparently essential in terms of investigating unlawful access, hacking and malware.
In August 2012, I contacted Detective Nash again about on going activity emanating from two separate sources, both apparently located in Holland and both using multiple languages. One party flooded the website on a regular basis with nonsensical Blog postings, each from a different ISP address and a different alias. All had the same distinctive hallmark that for security reasons I will not publicly disclose. The other party appears to be a disgruntled former employee of Shell/Sakhalin Energy obsessed with me and my website. Cryptic emails were circulated almost every night to senior people involved in the energy sector in Sakhalin. Gazprom, Sakhalin Energy, the Russian Government and ExxonMobil were all on the circulation list. The emails, often featuring multiple languages, but mainly English, contained frequent references to my father and me, sometimes of a threatening nature.
By coincidence or otherwise, the disruptive attacks ceased for a long period on the day I sent the email to Detective Nash.
There was a brief resumption in February 2014. Again, the disruptive activity stopped after I published an article announcing that it was going on.
There were further attempts to disrupt my activities in August and September 2014. We were forced to modify settings at one of our North American located servers to thwart one cyber/hacking based disruption attack.