ShellNews.net: Rattled Shell management swamped with bad news, issues threat following President Putin’s Sakhalin2 tirade: Thursday 17 November 2005: 03.00am EDT
By Alfred Donovan
The last few weeks have brought almost nothing but bad news to a discredited management at Shell which has clearly lost the plot.
Some examples: -
The only good news, if it can be described as such, was the decision by the UK Financial Services Authority not to take action against individual Shell directors in respect of the reserves fraud. The fact that the decision was taken in dubious circumstances attracted a great deal of negative press. Sir Philip Watts, the Shell executive most responsible for the fraud, escaped prosecution, has retained his $18 million pension pot (including a massive severance package) and his knighthood. News reports about all of the above stories can be found on ShellNews.net.
There is one issue however which dwarfs all others in terms of importance to Shell and its stakeholders: the Sakhalin2 project in Russia. Shell hit the headlines two weeks ago when President Putin in a face-to-face meeting with Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer, savaged Shell management in relation to the staggering cost overrun of the project.
On 11th November I sent an email to Shell General Counsel, Richard Wiseman, which had no connection with Sakhalin2. I asked him to confirm that Shell undercover agents had nothing to do with a recent robbery in which £3,000 in operating funds for our website ShellNews.net were stolen from my son, John Donovan. More details about the robbery are set out in the correspondence printed below in its entirety.
Bizarrely, my email ignited a threat by Shell relating to the Putin outburst and an un-solicited admittance of its censorship polices on the Internet.
I pointed out in the email that Shell has previously admitted using undercover activity against its perceived enemies – my son and I, Greenpeace, The Body Shop, Nigerian activists etc. Mr Wiseman clearly accepted that I had grounds to seek this assurance, because he kindly provided the confirmation I had sought in his reply email. However, it also contained the threat and a surprising admission.
Before revealing more about the correspondence, I will briefly provide some background history to our acrimonious relationship with Shell. In 1981 we created the first of many multi-million dollar marketing schemes for Shell, subsequently launched on an International basis to spectacular success. One such promotion, “Shell Make Money”, increased Shell gasoline sales by 30% in every Country in which it was launched. Unfortunately in 1992, a newly appointed Shell manager decided that Shell could steal our ideas even though they had been presented, as always, on a strictly confidential basis. We have been involved in bouts of litigation with Shell ever since – the last proceedings issued by Shell in May 2005 in respect of the domain name RoyalDutchShellplc.com, which is owned by me. We have sued Shell seven times, including two libel actions. Shell has brought Counterclaims and proceedings in respect of Shell related domain names, including RoyalDutchShellplc.com (the dotcom name for their new $200 billion unified company: Royal Dutch Shell plc). We have never lost a case against Shell. I still own all three Shell related domain names which Shell attempted to seize.
Returning to the correspondence, Mr Wiseman confessed in his email that Shell does censor “feedback” postings on the Tell Shell Forum” – Shell’s claimed forum for open and lively debate. His response also contained what can only be construed as a threat against us regarding a ShellNews.net webpage focused on the runaway multi-billion dollar project costs of Sakhalin2 and the related tongue lashing President Putin reportedly gave to Royal Dutch Shell plc Chief Executive, Jeroen van der Veer. Mr Wiseman let the correspondence rest on the basis that a reliable high level Shell source had leaked to us a revised projected final cost of $26 billion. It is important to note that Jeroen van der Veer and Exploration & Production Executive Director, Malcolm Brinded, were parties involved in the correspondence which is printed below in its entirety. Links to webpage’s mentioned in the correspondence can be found at the foot of this article.
From: Alfred Donovan [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 11 November 2005 09:20
To: Wiseman, Richard RM SI-LMAPF
Cc: van der Veer, Jeroen J SI-SI-CEJV; Brinded, Malcolm A SI-ECMB
Subject: DAYLIGHT ROBBERY
Dear Mr Wiseman
On 27th October 2005 my son John was the victim of an assault and robbery in Chelmsford a few minutes after £3,000 in cash had been collected from inside a Lloyds TSB Bank in the Town Centre. The cash was intended to fund our campaigning activities against Shell.
A team of four individuals were involved. I was present when the robbery took place in a Maplin Electronics store where I had been awaiting John's return from the bank. Strangely, the members of the gang were unconcerned that several people were in the store, including staff who witnessed the commotion. They must have also known that CCTV was in operation (it recorded the event). The gang were all foreign in appearance and spoke with foreign accents. They were all middle aged people. This was not a group of local hooligans or run-of-the-mill villains.
John had obviously been under surveillance at the time when the cash was handed to him. He is uninjured but his clothes were damaged during the robbery. Essex Police have a copy of the CCTV tape and are investigating the robbery. The crime reference number is C11A/13235/05.
We have unfortunately had some serious problems in the past with sinister activities related to our campaigning against Shell (when we had occasion to call in the Police). I am sure you will recall the series of burglaries and threat’s made against us and our witnesses prior to the last High Court Trial.
Although there had been a long period of relative calm following the repudiation by Shell of the peace treaty signed in 1999, matters heated up again after Shell issued proceedings in May 2005 via the WIPO in relation to the domain names. That episode, as you will be aware, created international media interest, including the article in the Wall Street Journal published in North America and Europe, which was highly embarrassing to Shell management.
The activities on our website must also be a considerable and continuing embarrassment. It now contains over 6500 web pages including articles about Shell and Shell leaked internal documents – in the latter connection, Shell management is probably less than pleased that we have recently been able to publish a leaked email from a Shell Chairman on the same day it was circulated. Our articles have also made an impact. Shell suspended the "Tell Shell Forum" days after my article concerning the “slow death” of the forum. By coincidence or otherwise, the robbery took place the day after Mondaq published that article.
There is further activity in prospect with the pending High Court cases in the next few weeks relating to Dr John Huong. The High Court action brought collectively by eight companies within the Royal Dutch Shell Group relates directly to our website and our campaigning activities.
We know that Shell management takes these matters extremely seriously as we have a copy of your email dated 24 June 2004 to Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive, Mr Jeroen van der Veer and the Chief Executive of Exploration & Production, Mr Malcolm Brinded. As you may recall, it revealed that Shell has a standard procedure for your public relations department to respond to our initiatives. It also indicated that you were contacting another Shell director, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, to brief him on the content of my email entitled: “THE MAD HATTERS TEA PARTY AT SHELL”.
The thought that Shell could possibly have any connection with the robbery would never have even crossed our minds if it were not for the past events which I have briefly mentioned. I have noted the following passage on the website of nuclearcrimes.com: “Shell quickly responded. Investigators kept me under surveillance. My telephone was tapped. My mail was intercepted, and destroyed and/or kept.” In our case, Shell has previously admitted the activities of Mr Christopher Philips who used deception, including a fake company and faked documents, during his undercover "enquiries" on Shell’s behalf some years ago.
Shell also admitted in 2001 that it had used the private spy firm Hakluyt to carry out infiltration, intelligence gathering and sabotage missions against its perceived enemies on an international basis (as reported by The Sunday Times). Shell directors were at the time the spymasters of Hakluyt and major shareholders in the spy firm. I have read a recent posting on the Internet (June 2005) alleging that Shell is still closely associated with Hakluyt.
The facts are that the robbery in Chelmsford was a professional operation. The team involved obviously had surveillance in place inside or outside the bank and must have observed the cash being drawn and handed to John in a brown envelope. We have no idea whether the surveillance was in operation prior to the robbery or if the people involved had advance knowledge of our plans.
It may have been a gang which moves from town to town with John being a target of opportunity, or it could be something more sinister. I say this mindful of the unusual circumstances and Shell’s admitted past association with undercover activities, whereby perhaps “enquiry” agents exceeded a brief. (At the time, Mr Colin Joseph informed us that a number of agents were retained but refused to disclose what specific activities they were engaged in against us.)
Consequently, although we feel that it is unlikely that Shell has any connection with this matter, we thought it best to write so that you can confirm for the record that no “enquiry" or other agents have been retained directly or indirectly in connection with our more recent activities.
We would obviously feel more comfortable knowing that it was a once-off chance event rather than something much more sinister.
Cc Mr Jeroen van der Veer
Mr Malcolm Brinded
Wiseman, Richard RM SI-LMAPF [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 11 November 2005 15:29
To: Alfred Donovan
Cc: van der Veer, Jeroen J SI-SI-CEJV; Brinded, Malcolm A SI-ECMB
Subject: RE: DAYLIGHT ROBBERY
Dear Mr Donovan,
I am truly sorry to hear about the robbery. This must have been an unpleasant and frightening ordeal. Please be assured that this has nothing whatsoever to do with Shell.
Since you have repeated a number of untrue allegations in your letter, I feel I cannot allow the more important ones to go without comment. As always, I have only dealt with the highlights, the fact that I have not dealt with all your assertions does not mean that any not referred to below are accepted as true.
While you, or John, may have complained to the police about "sinister activities" around the time of previous campaigns, as we said at the time and repeat now, there is no substance in the allegation that Shell had anything to do with such activities. The work done by our enquiry agent was entirely legal and conventional in the context of the litigation.
The WIPO proceedings seems irrelevant to anything else, and I am not sure why you have raised them. I wonder if, had the WIPO seen the current use to which you are putting the site, the outcome would have been the same (as to which see below).
The extraordinary tolerance shown to your internet activities ought to demonstrate better than anything else the fact that we are uninterested in, and unmoved by, your current activities. It is true that when your comments to "Tell Shell" overstep the bounds of honest comment and become vituperative or defamatory, we remove them. In this context, I suggest that the image on
be removed as a matter of urgency.
For reasons I am sure you will understand, I do not propose to comment on the current litigation with Doctor Huong.
The allegations about phone tapping, mail interception on Nuclearcrimes.com are unfounded, and untrue.
I hope John makes a speedy recovery from his ordeal.
General Counsel M &
A and Project Finance
Shell International Limited
Shell Centre, London SE1 7NA, United Kingdom
The registered office of Shell International Limited is Shell Centre, London SE1 7NA. [Company number 3075807]
Monday 14 November 2005
Dear Mr Wiseman
Thank you for the prompt sympathetic reply. Although I note that you ducked the question about “enquiry agents”, we are nonetheless grateful for the kind assurance that the robbery had nothing to do with Shell.
It is difficult as always to deal with your blanket condemnation of what you describe as “untrue allegations”. I will however run through some of the topics mentioned. Detailed supporting information is available on every subject.
THE SINISTER ACTIVITIES
The fact is that we were the target of sinister activities subsequently investigated by the Police. You need not take our word for this. John’s solicitor, Mr Richard Woodman of Royds, was contacted and lulled into discussing our SMART claim against Shell with two individuals who each used false pretences to obtain confidential information. Mr Woodman was also one of the three unfortunates connected with the SMART litigation who had their houses broken into prior to the commencement of the trial. As you may recall trial documents were examined.
With regards to the threats, the person who made the relevant telephone call gave insider information about Shell’s plans for dealing with the SMART litigation which later proved to be 100% accurate. You were sufficiently impressed and concerned at the time to launch an internal investigation at Shell-Mex House.
With regards to Christopher Phillips (if that was his real name) after being caught red handed checking private mail, he presented a business card which stated that he was a director of Cofton Consultants. This information was false. Using false pretences he asked questions about us of a personal nature which did not come under the heading of routine activities by an “enquiry agent”. With all due respect, false pretences and fake documents are neither legal nor conventional (except in the context of The Rockford Files).
Neither do I believe that it was legal or conventional for Geoffrey Hobbs QC (acting on Shell’s instructions and in your presence) to engage in an outright deception at the climax of his cross-examination of John, in an attempt at entrapment relating to serious criminal offences. You will recall the motorbike messenger supposedly on route to the court with documentary evidence from J Sainsbury. It transpired that there was no motorbike, no messenger and no documentary evidence. In other words, it was all a complete premeditated fabrication.
Having obtained a complete transcript of the SMART Trial, we will shortly be publishing an article focused on this interesting episode. And yes, we will deal with the Judges Comments made by the former High Court Judge, Mr Justice Laddie who resigned in controversial circumstances earlier this year when his judgement and ethics were questioned by the media. By coincidence or otherwise, Laddie’s resignation took place after my letters to the Lord Chancellor and Prime Minister Tony Blair, concerning the issue of his bizarre behaviour during the trial and in regard to a potential conflict of interest. More information has now emerged in this regard. Recent frank comments attributed to Sir Hugh Laddie QC (as he is now known) are unusual to say the least and in my opinion, raise questions about his state of mind.
With regards to the spy firm Hakluyt, I have in my possession documents obtained from Companies House which prove the close association with Shell. I also have the Sunday Times article setting out the activities of the serving German Secret Service agent who worked on a freelance basis for Shell via Hakluyt. It contains admittance by Shell in regards to the extensive “cloak and dagger” activities undertaken by the agent on Shell’s behalf.
We do not know who was responsible for the sinister events in our case outside of the “activities” already admitted by Shell. It was obviously a company (or individual) with deep pockets. We accept that this does not automatically mean that it was Shell (although Shell had the most obvious motive).
THE PEACE TREATY
Surely you are not claiming that the peace treaty is still in force?
I note what can only be construed as a threat regarding the removal of the cited Van der Veer/Putin/Sakhalin webpage as “a matter of urgency”. Am I right in assuming that this cannot be a threat by Shell bearing in mind that you prefaced your comment by claiming that Shell is “uninterested in, and unmoved by” our current activities. It seems from what you say that something very serious IS imminent. If so, is it a threat by Mr Van der Veer personally, The Kremlin, or some other party?
In considering your free legal advice on this matter it would be useful if we were made aware of the basis of the objection. Remember that we created satirical comments made in the context of a supposed response from Mr Jeroen van der Veer to the recent tirade attributed to President Putin concerning the Sakhalin2 cost overrun. We took into account the facts - President Putin is vertically challenged, he does have a black belt in Judo and there are published comments regarding alleged corruption at the highest levels of The Kremlin. With regards to the reported tongue lashing from President Putin, Shell initially claimed that no such conversation had taken place and then confirmed that it had. That perhaps indicates the degree of sensitivity attached to the subject.
There is also a great deal of confusion over the costs of this “elephant” project (white elephant some might say). In June 2005 it was widely reported that costs had doubled to $20 billion (as Mr Jeroen van der Veer confirmed). Then “The Observer” revealed on Sunday 16 October that the projected cost had climbed to $22 billion. On 18 October, we reported that according to a high level reliable source at Shell, the final cost was estimated to be $26 billion. We understand that Shell has warned the FT not to mention the $26 billion figure, which the FT has apparently confirmed independently, via its own source.
It would be useful if you would kindly clear up this confusion as I will very shortly be publishing a related article on Mondaq focused partly on the Sakhalin2 project. Is the final projected cost $20 billion, $22 billion, or $26 billion (USD)? I will be quoting extensively from a 48 page confidential document in our possession mentioned in the recent FT story under the headline: “Shell's 'hands off' approach pushes up costs”. We are awaiting permission from our source to publish the entire revealing “independent project analysis: “The Looming Crisis in Project Management; Issues and Implications for Shell”. If you doubt that we have the entire document, please request information from any page of your choice.
The fact that our source was able to supply the confidential Shell internal document containing commercially sensitive information, obviously adds credibility to their confirmation that the final projected cost for Sakhalin2 is now $26 billion. That news is likely to make President Putin even less happy about being in bed with Royal Dutch Shell.
We have been told independently that the "engineering" costs alone of Sakhalin2 are about $20bn – i.e. construction costs which will be incurred prior to start-up. One of our sources has speculated that the additional $6bn is made up of financing costs, penalties for the late deliveries of first gas, and other costs which will be incurred prior to 2014 (or whenever repayment of costs is complete and the Russians finally start to receive some revenue themselves).
According to yet another source there are major problems with the development plans for Sakhalin2, such as the fact that illites are present in the reservoir – we understand that during production these will block the pore spaces in the reservoir, reducing production and requiring expensive remedial work and other oversights. It is our information that many of the Sakhalin2 cost overruns are in fact Shell's internal costs and Shell will therefore actually benefit from the overruns.
We have also been informed that there are a number of other multi-billion dollar projects which while neither as high profile nor as costly as Sakhalin, have overrun their budgets by very large amounts. In fact it appears that for every major project approved during Watts' period at the helm of E&P (and then Shell itself) the project costs were severely underestimated. We understand that it was only because of the low estimates that the projects could be approved in accordance with Shell's economic screening criteria, and the associated reserves booked.
FREE SPEECH ON THE INTERNET
You mention the “extraordinary tolerance” shown by Shell towards our humble “internet activities”. This is in line with the following paragraph in Shell’s submission to the World Intellectual Property Organisation in respect of your failed proceedings regarding three Shell related domain names owned by me, including RoyalDutchShellplc.com.
“The Complainant and the Group it represents have been aware of the site since the beginning and whilst they would not endorse or agree with many of the comments made by the Respondent on the website, they have taken the view that the Respondent is entitled to express his opinions and to use the Internet as a medium for doing so.”
The implied threat in your email regarding the satirical comments directed at President Putin, betrays Shell’s real attitude to freedom of speech on the Internet. The same applies to your draconian libel action against Dr Huong in respect of postings under his name on RoyalDutchShellplc.com. I have already confirmed that I was the author of some of the cited offending comments and assisted Dr Huong in drafting every article. Thus, I could fairly be described as the co-author of the articles.
Thank you for the official confirmation regarding Shell’s censorship of the “Tell Shell Forum”. Such suppression of free speech is directly at odds with statements made by Shell on the forum inviting feedback and lively open debate in “uncensored space”. Since we have never posted any bad language on Tell Shell, the censorship relates entirely to our criticism of Shell and our accurate account of past events, supported by documents in our possession.
Having admitted to Shell’s censorship policy on the Tell Shell Forum, your next comments imply that Shell has rights or influence over what is published on RoyalDutchShellplc.com. I would respectfully point out that although you can censor postings on your website, you cannot censor commentary posted on ours. You have not mentioned the censorship of postings by other contributors to Tell Shell offering constructive criticism, including former Shell employees (with one such posting deleted in an underhand manner). As far as I am aware, none of the postings critical of Shell contained any bad language.
I also note the sour grapes over the unanimous decision in my favour of the three person panel of eminent lawyers appointed by the WIPO. I believe that Shell’s real attitude to free speech on the Internet, as confirmed by the threat in your email (as opposed to the above claim by Shell in its WIPO submission) combined with your confession in respect of censorship on Tell Shell, would make the panel feel that it had taken the correct decision i.e. in favour of our right to criticise Shell on the Internet. They took into account the fact that royaldutchshellplc.com is operated entirely on a non-commercial basis. The relevant paragraph from their unanimous verdict is provided below to refresh your memory.
The use of a domain name to criticize a company is prima facie fair use. The Respondent is entitled to use the Internet to use his free speech rights and express his opinion in this way, subject to other laws of course (copyright, libel, etc.). However, by reflecting the exact trade names of the Complainant and using the exact name of a facility specifically designed to send messages to or post messages about the Complainant, the Complainant argues that Respondent’s intent is to tarnish the mark. The distinction between constructive criticism and tarnishment can be a difficult one to draw. In this case, there is no evidence that Respondent’s actions are for “commercial gain” or that they are intended to tarnish the Complainant’s mark as required by paragraph 4(c)(iii) of the Policy. The Respondent does own some shares of stock, but the impact of his activities on the value of such shares is presumed by the Panel to be remote. The Panel thus finds that the Respondent has a legitimate interest in the domain names.
I would also remind you of the following standing invitation to Shell published on our website.
“WE HAVE POSTED ON THE "TELL SHELL" FORUM AN OPEN INVITATION TO PUBLISH, UNEDITED, ANY RESPONSE SHELL WISHES TO MAKE TO ANY ARTICLE PUBLISHED HEREIN: THIS INVITATION IS IN KEEPING WITH OUR EARLIER OFFERS TO SHELL & ITS AGENTS IN 2004, MADE BY EMAIL, FAX & ONLINE POSTING: SHELL IS OF COURSE FREE TO ISSUE LIBEL PROCEEDINGS IF ANYTHING PUBLISHED HEREIN IS UNTRUE. This is a non-commercial site: no subscription charges and no advertising.”
I can appreciate why you would not wish to comment on the situation with Dr John Huong given the resumption of his wrongful dismissal case against Shell in Malaysia tomorrow (15 November). I would only point out that Dr Huong repeatedly tried to resolve the situation by appealing for the intervention of Mr Jeroen van der Veer and Mr Malcolm Brinded. He even tried to arrange a meeting when Mr Brinded visited Malaysia in 2004 before the litigation commenced. Unfortunately for Shell stakeholders and Dr Huong, his pleadings for a fair hearing by senior management were ignored. Shell also has a major problem with hundreds of other former Shell employees in Malaysia who were driven to collectively sue Shell. This unhappy situation should surely raise questions over the conduct of Shell management in Malaysia and whether it is proper for management to use shareholder funds to bully and oppress former loyal, hard working employees.
With regards to the Nuclearcrimes.com matter, I will leave it to Mr John Alfred Dyer to deal with your comment if he so wishes.
Monday 14 November 2005
Dear Mr Wiseman
I wish to make one correction in regard to my email earlier today. It is in regard to the following paragraph: -
“The fact that our source was able to supply the confidential Shell internal document containing commercially sensitive information, obviously adds credibility to their confirmation that the final projected cost for Sakhalin2 is now $26 billion. That news is likely to make President Putin even less happy about being in bed with Royal Dutch Shell.”
In fact the leaked confidential document came from a different source to the source who revealed the $26 billion cost overrun figure. I apologise for this error which stemmed from a mix up in communications between John and me.
Related Links: -
Message from Royal Dutch Shell Plc CEO, Jeroen ("the finger") van der Veer, to Russian President Putin, after Putin slams Sakhalin2 $16 billion (USD) cost overrun: Wednesday 2 Nov 2005
ShellNews.net: Final Cost of Sakhalin-2 will now be at least $26 Bn.: Tuesday 18 October 2005: 00.30am GMT: READ)
ShellNews.net: The slow death of the “Tell Shell” Internet discussion forum: 25 October 2005: 09.00am ET: READ
LETTER TO MR PETER MONTAGNON, HEAD OF CORPORATE GOVERNANCE, THE ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH INSURERS, 24 JUNE 04: RE: "THE MAD HATTERS TEA PARTY AT SHELL"
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