(Article contains email correspondence with Shell about its attempt to close down this website)
By Alfred Donovan
26 June 2007
On Monday morning we contacted Mr Keith Ruddock, General Counsel of Shell Exploration & Production, to bring to his attention serious allegations made against Mr Ian Craig, the Chief Executive of Sakhalin Energy Investment Company (SEIC).
We sought from Keith Ruddock a categorical denial of the allegations including an alleged pending action against Mr Craig by the Sakhalin Prosecutors Office.
Shell has not confirmed or denied the allegations. It has instead refused to comment claiming the allegations come from an anonymous source, when in fact that is not the case. We are in regular daily contact with our source.
Mr Ruddock could have said that Shell has no knowledge of any such move by the Sakhalin Prosecutors Office. He chose not to do so. I believe we can safely assume that Mr Ruddock checked with Mr Criag before responding.
Under the circumstances we have decided to publish the correspondence so that readers are aware of what has been alleged and can take into account what Shell has said in response. We are not drawing any conclusions on the matter.
You will see that Shell did briefly manage to close down our website after issuing threats against two hosting companies involved in our operations. The move appears to have been made immediately after the resignation of David Greer, the Deputy Chief Executive of SEIC, perhaps as a retaliatory act for our role in that matter.
A magazine article about us in February of this year said: “The Donovan website has become an open wound for Shell”. It was more recently described by the Financial Times newspaper “as an anti-Shell website run by a father and son partnership that has been a long-running thorn in the company’s side”. Personally I prefer the description given by Geoffrey Cox QC MP who represented my son in our last High Court action with Shell. Mr Cox described us as being “a carbuncle on an elephant’s arse”.
In November 2005 Shell General Counsel, Richard Wiseman, said in an email to me that Shell was disinterested and unmoved by our website. How things have changed. After it took off to become probably the most visited Shell related website on the Internet, Mr Wiseman sent us an up to date photograph of himself for publication to replace the version previously used.
Now we have Shell desperately trying to close down the site because it is a global magnet to individuals and parties who have a gripe or concern relating to Shell.
Extracts from the email correspondence:
Email to Keith Ruddock, General Counsel, Shell Exploration & Production. Copied to Jeroen van der Veer, Jorma Ollila, Malcolm Brinded, Richard Wiseman and Jim Niven of SEIC.
Sent Mon 25/06/2007 09:22
Dear Mr Ruddock
New allegations relating to SEIC senior management
We are in correspondence with a contractor on Sakhalin Island who has made serious allegations concerning alleged “corrupt practices of Sakhalin Energy and Mr Craig specially as they try to steal diesel supply contracts away from the good and honest Sakhtransbunker and give it to Sakhalin Oil Company without any type of tendering exercise at all only to fill the bank accounts of Dmitry Goncharenko and Ian Craig”.
He is referring to Mr Ian Craig, the Chief Executive of SEIC and Dmitry Goncharenko who works in Sakhalin Oblast Administration, who he alleges is “a puppet of Malakhov and Pinchevsky”.
The contractor claims that the Sakhalin Prosecutor is already filing a case against Craig and Goncharenko about the “illegal stealing of work from Sakhtransbunker.” He says that although this development is known to people on Sakhalin Island, he wants Shell shareholders and Gazprom to be made aware of this alleged situation.
The contractor goes on to say: “If this is not worry enough, you also need to know that Sakhalin Energy in their continued stupidity have given all the responsibility for environmental cleansing from diesel spills from oil and gas tankers in the Aniva Bay ocean water also to Goncharenko and Sakhalin Oil Company – again with no tender exercise! None of these people know anything about this work and have no equipment. This is not good enough for the people of Sakhalin and will not protect our lovely beaches and fishes – only fill bank accounts of Concharenko and Craig largely”.
As you are aware, it is our routine practise to give Shell the opportunity to respond when allegations are made. We realise that it must be a sensitive time at SEIC in view of recent events, with the Russian government already ridiculing SEIC management.
We would therefore welcome a categorical denial of the allegations including the claimed involvement of the Sakhalin Prosecutor before considering publishing the allegations and or passing on the correspondence to media contacts.
Alleged infringement of Shell logo
For your information, we will be publishing an article shortly about Shell’s unsuccessful attempt to have our website closed down on Friday. We will publish extracts from correspondence with the website hosting company Shell approached.
When MyHosting sent us a 48 hour ultimatum on Friday evening, they were so frightened by the threats made by Shell that they did not tell us who had contacted them, or even what the complaint was about. We pointed out that it was impossible to react without knowing what the alleged problem was.
Since we have enjoyed reasonably friendly correspondence with Michiel Brandjes, for example when we passed on the email containing threats of terrorist attacks on Shell employees in The Netherlands (which we are sure Shell warned staff about), we would have thought that Shell would have contacted us direct about the alleged Shell logo infringement rather than resorting to threats made to a third party which, as you should know by now, tend to backfire.
In future, if you want to engage in discussion on any contentious issue on a confidential “off the record basis”, just mark the correspondence accordingly and it will not be published or used by us to embarrass Shell. We might have been able to have had a constructive dialogue in private which would have resolved the Shell logo issue.
If you wish to comment on the logo issue before we publish the article, please let me know within the next few hours. As per normal, we would happily publish unedited any comment you might wish to make. If you wish to see the draft article in advance, we would be happy to supply it. We are reasonable people.
Reply from: Keith Ruddock: 25 June 2007 12:51
Cc: Richard Wiseman, Jim Niven, Sakhalin Energy
Subject: RE: Alleged corruption involving Mr Ian Craig, CEO of SEIC
Dear Mr Donovan
Thank you for your email which I have only just seen as I have been in a meeting until now. Accordingly, I would ask that you hold off publishing this material until I have had the opportunity to review your email properly and respond to you.
General Counsel Exploration and Production
Shell International B.V.
The Hague, The Netherlands – Trade Register no. 27155369
Address: c/o Kessler Park 1, 2288 GS Rijswijk, The Netherlands
Email to Keith Ruddock: Sent Mon 25/06/2007 14:25
Dear Mr Ruddock
This is a self-explanatory email from a website hosting company.
Perhaps before we go any further, you could kindly check with the appropriate lawyer (perhaps David Crawford) to confirm that Shell did lodge the complaint.
From: John Carthy
Sent: 22 June 2007 21:43
You received a message earlier today from our support department regarding your domain – royaldutchshellplc.com. While in your response you have chosen to dispute the legality of the allegations being brought against you by the owner of the trademark, this is not a dispute we wish to engage in, but rather a matter for the courts to decide.
From our perspective, however, we still ask you to comply with the requests made earlier within 48 hours or we will be forced to shut down your account . We will do this for the undue risks your account represents to our business as is our right as outlined in our Acceptable Use Policy.
SoftCom Technology Consulting Inc.
Received from Keith Ruddock: Mon 25/06/2007 13:47
Dear Mr Donovan
Thank you for your email. With regard to the second point you made in your earlier email relating to the MyHosting website, we are not aware of this issue and would ask you accordingly to send through your proposed article on this topic to help clarify the situation.
Email sent to Keith Ruddock: Mon 25/06/2007 23:52
Cc. Jeroen van der Veer; Jorma Ollila; Malcolm Brinded and Richard Wiseman
Dear Mr Ruddock
Printed below is a message from the webhosting company actually hosting our website notifying us that our website had been deactivated. They received a complaint from the owner of the Shell trademark (presumably Shell International) and closed down the site. We pointed out that the merged BP/Shell logo had already been removed from the site. Our website is back in action.
MyHosting, the company threatened previously, handle a number of Shell related domain names for us all pointed to the www.royaldutchshellplc.com site.
Naturally we are baffled in view of your email saying that Shell is unaware of this issue, bearing in mind that threats were sent to at least two of our suppliers. We will complete the draft of the article after you have had a chance to confirm that despite the apparent evidence to the contrary, the interference with the legal operation of our website is not due to any hostile action on the part of Shell.
The merged BP/Shell logo was a unique parody which we would argue is permissible under the Fair Use Doctrine. We would not have deleted it if third parties were not involved who were apparently frightened out of their wits at the threats received from an oil giant. Both companies said that it was the Shell logo that was the problem, not the BP logo.
Subject: BLUEHOST.COM royaldutchshellplc.com is deactivated
Your BlueHost.Com account for royaldutchshellplc.com was deactivated (reason: terms of service violation). Your data may still be temporarily available even though your web site may not be functioning. If you feel this deactivation is in error, please contact support as soon as possible.
Email received from Keith Ruddock: Tue 26/06/2007 09:19
Dear Mr Donovan,
I refer to my emails to you of yesterday and of earlier today.
With regard to the first item you raise relating to Sakhalin Energy, it is our policy not to respond in public to anonymous allegations. If such allegations are brought to the notice of Shell through the proper channels they will be thoroughly investigated.
With regard to the second issue you raise relating to the MyHosting website, I can confirm that Shell’s challenge to the unauthorised use of the Shell Pecten on your website is part of our standard policy of ensuring that the Pecten is only used with our authorisation.
Email to Keith Ruddock: Tue 26/06/2007 10:02
cc. Jeroen van der Veer; Jorma Ollila; Malcolm Brinded; Michiel Brandjes; Richard Wiseman
Dear Mr Ruddock
Thank you for your reply.
The source in relation to Sakhalin is not anonymous. They do not want their name disclosed or published because of fear of retaliation. We have had further communication with the source this morning and will now turn the information over to a news organization providing they agree to protect the identity of the source, which under the circumstances, I am sure they will be willing to do.
With regard to our website, I am sure you will understand that given the timing, this appears to be a deliberate retaliatory attack prompted by our role in the David Greer resignation.
Thank you again for your response.