By Alfred Donovan
Lawyers acting for a group of EIGHT Royal Dutch Shell companies have served contempt proceedings against Shell whistleblower Dr John Huong. The objective of the new (Notice to Show Cause) proceedings is to have Dr Huong committed to prison or fined in respect of publications made by me on my websites – Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com (AKA TellShell.net) and Royal Dutch Shell Group .com (AKA ShellNews.net).
The legal papers were served on Dr Huong on Wednesday 17 March as he left the Industrial High Court in Kuching, Malaysia, where he is suing Shell for wrongful dismissal.
For reasons which I will explain, Shell’s ambush was an underhand and cowardly action (probably also designed to intimidate him in regards to his own litigation against Shell).
Royal Dutch Shell has been aware since July 2004 that the case against Dr Huong is built on a platform of fundamentally flawed evidence contained in Shell's STATEMENT OF CLAIM and the associated AFFIDAVIT by Shell’s Kuala Lumpur based solicitors, T H Liew & Partners.
Firstly, Shell cited an internet website which never existed – “Whistleblower No.2”. Although this was brought to their attention within days after the proceedings were issued, Shell has continued to maintain this fiction ever since, thereby deceiving the courts. Nor has there ever been a corresponding domain name. I appreciate Shell has acquired a reputation for conjuring tricks (making oil reserves vanish) but Shell will not be able to prove the existence of a website under that name. It is a complete delusion.
Secondly, Shell repeatedly claimed that Dr Huong had made “postings” on the cited website. This was a physical impossibility since the website on which the articles were published does not have the technical facility to allow any third party postings. Again Shell was immediately advised that the allegation was unfounded, but chose to ignore the truth.
Thirdly, the articles in question were in fact co-authored and published by me (with the help of my son John) on my website. If there is any defamation (which I deny) then my son and I are the people that Shell should be suing, not Dr Huong. We are responsible for the alleged defamatory commentary actually cited in Shell’s STATEMENT OF CLAIM and associated AFFIDAVIT.
At that point in the proceedings in June 2004 what may have been a series of blunders about the true facts turned into a fabrication because Shell lawyers have continued to maintain the false basis of claim. In other words what started out as mistakes (if we take a charitable view) became falsehoods which since July 2004 have been used to deceive the courts. Shell has now instituted contempt proceedings against Dr Huong despite knowing that the entire case is founded on flawed/false evidence.
Why has Shell persisted in maintaining this deceit despite knowing the truth? I can only speculate that the reason for the long deception is because Shell wanted to maintain the charade that the website on which the articles were published is not connected with my son and me. This strategy was presumably meant to keep us and our evidence and experiences with Shell out of the picture. Shell has been determined for over a decade that it will not be “goaded” into bringing a libel action against us. Shell UK Media Relations even issued a *press statement about this on March 17, 1995. Shell does seem to have gone to extreme lengths by using trumped up evidence against a surrogate Defendant rather than being prepared to face us directly in court in a Shell McLibel type action.
Bearing in mind the flawed evidence originally presented to the court and the subsequent failure by Shell to correct the blunders, the Interim Injunction and Restraining Order against Dr Huong are invalid and worthless. It is only now that Shell is trying to slyly change its pleadings rather than doing so in an open straightforward fashion.
Another factor could be that Shell prefers to sue Dr Huong under the repressive human rights climate in Malaysia in which freedom of expression is suppressed, rather than sue in the UK or the USA.
As many observers may have concluded, Dr Huong – who is being terrorised by Shell, is unfortunately a pawn in a long drawn out war between other protagonists that commenced more than a decade before he first contacted us.
As already indicated, the legal papers were served on Dr Huong as he left the Industrial High Court in Kuching, where he was suing Shell for wrongful dismissal.
Mr Hee Len Hi, General Manager of Shell Technology Services at the time that Dr Huong was dismissed on false charges, gave evidence on Wednesday and Thursday and was subjected to a rigorous and productive cross-examination. Shell senior management has probably realised by now that Dr Huong was a victim of unfair treatment by local management. The wrongful dismissal case resumes in September.
Dr Huong has 10 days in which to respond to the “Show Cause” Notice served by Shell alleging contempt of court in relation to the defamation action.
The contempt proceedings are apparently based on the publication on my websites of the following items: –
Dr Huong’s DEFENCE document
Dr Huong’s email to Jyoti Munsiff
Dr Huong’s draft Affidavit
Dr Huong’s email to Human Rights Watch
A further article will follow probably on Monday.
This article has also been published today on the award winning Malaysian website promoting freedom of expression on the internet: Screenshots: http://www.jeffooi.com/2006/02/wither_malaysian_journalism.php
*THE PRESS STATEMENT
On 17th March 1995, Shell UK circulated to the media a press statement headed: “DON MARKETING LIMITED –V- SHELL UK LIMITED. Its ferocious content shows just how livid Shell UK was about our legal claims and our campaigning activity.
This is what it said: –
During the past few months Mr John Donovan, the Managing Director of Don Marketing Limited, and his father, Mr Alfred Donovan, have conducted a publicity campaign connected with legal actions which Don Marketing has initiated against Shell U.K. Limited. Shell believes the courts are the proper forum for a commercial dispute of this kind, and wishes to see matters resolved there. However, due to the growing number of untrue and often offensive allegations being made about Shell in the campaign, the company feels it is appropriate to comment more fully.
Shell U.K. Limited is defending legal actions which allege that Shell UK wrongfully used two forecourt promotions – ‘Nintendo’ and ‘Now Showing’ – developed by Don Marketing without its consent. The allegation is untrue. Don Marketing has no case and the legal actions are being strenuously defended. Shell is always anxious to resolve disputes amicably where possible but in this case sees no alternative but to allow the litigation to take its course.
Mr Donovan appears to have little faith in his company’s claims. Since initiating legal proceedings he and his father have adopted the unusual course of mounting a publicity campaign to ventilate allegations against Shell and members of its staff. Mr Donovan’s father has recently founded what he calls a ‘Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group’ to promote this campaign.
Mr Donovan and his father have written to the directors of Shell UK and its parent companies stating that they plan to outline the allegations against Shell and its staff to the company’s shareholders, the President of the Board of Trade, a number of publications and to ‘Internet’ users. They have also claimed that they intend to write to media and shareholders calling for the resignation of senior Shell managers, allege that they plan to write a book, have sent publicity material to several Shell locations in the UK and have attempted to assemble negative views of Shell from some retailers. Shell believes these actions are an attempt to sully Shell’s reputation with sensationalist allegations, in the hope that the company may be coerced into settling false claims.
Don Marketing and the so called pressure group have repeatedly attempted to goad Shell into issuing proceedings against them for what they are doing. Shell has to date declined to do so. Shell believes that the invitation to take legal action has been made merely to generate publicity and to substantiate Mr Donovan’s false assertion that Shell is a large company oppressing a small trader. Shell believes that any libel proceedings it brought would be likely to succeed. However, it doubts that Don Marketing and the so called pressure group would have the funds to pay Shell’s costs and the compensation it would be awarded.
Shell would be in breach of its obligations to shareholders if it initiated legal actions, failed to defend itself, or participated in actions in which it would lose money even if successful. Shell will therefore be applying to the court for Security for Costs in the existing legal actions brought by Don Marketing, in order to ensure that Don Marketing can pay Shell’s legal expenses in the event – which Shell believes likely – that Don Marketing’s claims will fail in court.
Shell UK Media Relations, March 17, 1995
Shell subsequently settled the “bogus” claims for £200,000 ($350,000 USD approx) plus legal costs. We also received an unsolicited letter of apology from Dr Chris Fay, the then Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Shell UK.
We sued Shell for libel in respect of the above press statement. We withdrew the defamation action in return for a financial package worth £125,000 ($218.000 USD approx) negotiated directly with with Dr Fay in meetings we held with him at Shell Mex House in London.
ShellNews.net: Royal Dutch Shell serves contempt proceedings against Shell whistleblower Dr Huong: Imprisonment or Fine (updated)
By Alfred Donovan