By Alfred Donovan
06 August 2007
Printed below is some self-explanatory correspondence with Mr Michiel Brandjes, Company Secretary and General Counsel Corporate of Royal Dutch Shell Plc. Mr Brandjes has acted swiftly in responding to the question I put to him on Friday and has supplied a straight forward unequivocal answer. What more could anyone ask. We make a lot of negative comments about Shell so it is pleasant change to be able to praise a senior Shell official. Thank you Mr Brandjes.
From: Alfred Donovan [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: vrijdag 3 augustus 2007 12:26
To: Brandjes, Michiel CM RDS-LC
Cc: van der Veer, Jeroen J RDS-CEJV; Ollila, Jorma RDS-RDS/CH; Brinded, Malcolm A RDS-ECMB; Wiseman, Richard RM SI-LMAPF; ‘John Donovan’
Subject: THE DEFAMATION PROCEEDINGS AGAINST DR JOHN HUONG BROUGHT BY EIGHT ROYAL DUTCH SHELL COMPANIES
Dear Mr Brandjes
My name is Alfred Donovan. I am writing to you directly because my son, John, speaks highly of you and because you seem to be the right person to contact on this matter given that you are Company Secretary and General Counsel Corporate of Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
I am 90 years old. For over a year, I have had the prospect of a cross-examination by Shell barristers hanging over my head. This is in respect of the defamation case brought in June 2004 by eight Royal Dutch Shell companies against the former Shell production geologist, Dr John Huong.
This is a link to the relevant Summons in Chambers:
Below is an extract from related “Show Cause” contempt proceedings launched against Dr Huong in March 2006 by the Malaysian solicitors representing the eight Shell Group plaintiff companies. It confirms the extremely serious nature of the case, with the freedom and reputation of Dr Huong being at stake.
19. We therefore now provide you with this formal notice for you to show cause within 10 days of its service on you, why you should not be committed to prison or fined for the above contempt.
Dated this 9* day of March, 2006.
MESSRS T H LIEW & PARTNERS
SOLICITORS FOR THE PLAINTIFFS
This Notice to Show Cause is issued by Messrs T H Liew & Partners, solicitors for the Plaintiffs abovenamed and whose address for service is at 4-02, 4* Floor, Straits Trading Building, 2, Lebuh Pasar Besar, 50050 Kuala Lumpur. Tel : 03-26129000 Fax : 03-26129001
In this connection, please be aware that there is a clear implication from TH Liew that if I do travel to Malaysia for cross-examination, as demanded by Shell, I will run the risk of a contempt action being brought against me. At the age of 90 and with numerous aliments, the thought of ending up in a small room with only iron bars for a view and without air conditioning in a tropical climate, is not much of an incentive to make the trip. In other words, while pretending that my presence in court in Malaysian legal jurisdiction is essential, there is also more than a hint of intimidation attached to deter me from giving evidence in support of my sworn affidavit, which quite frankly, completely destroys Shell’s defamation case against Dr Huong. The last thing the plaintiff companies really want is for me to actually give evidence confirming my sworn testimony.
I was given to understand several months ago that Shell’s application for my cross-examination would be heard this month: August. However, the law firms involved and Dr Huong himself seem frightened about giving me any information. Dr Huong is presumably concerned about attracting any further injunctions from Shell in respect of information allegedly passed to us and hence is simply too intimidated to say anything, as are his lawyers.
Although I have written several times to TH Liew in the past, I have never received the courtesy of an acknowledgement, let alone a reply. Consequently there is no point in me writing to them now. If they had taken note of my first letter in June 2004, your shareholders could have been spared what must by now be a huge legal bill for the deluge of proceedings launched against Dr Huong.
I am therefore asking you if you could kindly find out and advise me of whether Shell is still pursuing the application before the High Court for me to be cross-examined? If so, when is the date of the hearing? Is it still taking place this month?
As Shell is aware, I receive a war disability pension from the British Army arising from fighting in the Burma Campaign against the Japanese some 60 years ago. I had half of one lung removed in a related operation. Among other ailments associated with my age, I have diabetes, angina and poor hearing. I also suffer from stressÂ generated by the bouts of litigation with Shell over the years, including the ill-considered current proceedings.
Since I am sure you would agree that it is morally wrong for me to be left completely in the dark in such circumstances, I hope that you will kindly find out what is happening and advise me accordingly. Bearing in mind that the application relating to me was instigated and filed collectively on behalf of EIGHT companies within the Royal Dutch Shell Group, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, as the parent company of all eight plaintiff companies, can hardly claim that it has no involvement.
Please note that John has been involved in all of the events relating to Dr Huong, right from the outset, and because of my fading hearing, had all of the material telephone conversations with him. I have only spoken briefly with Dr Huong. John is willing to give evidence and be cross-examined. His affidavit was prepared at the same time as mine. However under the circumstances, he would obviously require undertakings from Shell before stepping foot in Malaysia. There is of course the alternative possibility of cross-examination taking place in a video conference setting, perhaps in the Malaysian Embassy in London? As you can see, we are trying to be constructive. I trust that this communication will be passed to the parties involved and disclosed to the trial judge.
EMAIL RESPONSE FROM MR BRANDJES ON 3 AUGUST 2007
—– Original Message —–
From: Brandjes, Michiel CM RDS-LC
To: ‘Alfred Donovan’ < [email protected]>
Sent: Fri Aug 03 17:59:10 2007Subject: RE: THE DEFAMATION PROCEEDINGS AGAINST DR JOHN HUONG BROUGHT BY EIGHT ROYAL DUTCH SHELL COMPANIES
Dear Mr Donovan,
Thank you for your kind introductory words. I will enquire within Shell about the matter you have raised and revert to you.
Company Secretary and General Counsel Corporate
Royal Dutch Shell plc
Registered office: Shell Centre London SE1 7NA UK
Place of registration and number: England 4366849
Correspondence address: PO Box 162, 2501 ANÂ The Hague,
EMAIL FROM MR BRANDJES ONÂ MONDAY 6 AUGUST 2007
From: Michiel Brandjes
Sent: 06 August 2007 07:23
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: THE DEFAMATION PROCEEDINGS AGAINST DR JOHN HUONG BROUGHT BY EIGHT ROYAL DUTCH SHELL COMPANIES
Dear Mr Donovan,
Your request by email refers.
We are surprised that Mr Huong’s lawyers did not inform you that the court already decided months ago that cross examination could be done by video conference. In addition the .Malaysian Shell companies have waived the right to cross examin you on your affidavit altogether in this matter on compassionate grounds..
I hope this resolves the issues you have raised.
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld
Reply from Alfred Donovan 06 August 2007: 16.34
Dear Mr Brandjes
I am indebted to you for taking the trouble to obtain an answer to the question I raised.
We last heard from the Malaysian solicitors representing Dr Huong in August 2006. Their email was on the subject of the cross-examination. The partner who was in contact subsequently left the law firm and I have never received any communication from his replacement. Dr Huong was restrained by injunctions brought against him by Shell from disclosing any information to us other than hearing dates. This was why I was in the dark.
You have very kindly supplied a straight forward answer i.e. that the Malaysian Shell companies have unconditionally waived the right to cross examine me on my affidavit “altogether”, citing compassionate grounds. As indicated in my email, we would have co-operated in alternative arrangements for cross examination but it is good to hear that my affidavit is being accepted without undergoing what would, in any event, have been an ordeal for a person of my antiquity.
Of the eight Shell Malaysian plaintiff companies, five are registered in Malaysia, one in the Caribbean, one in The Netherlands and one in the UK. With respect to the latter, we will be writing to David Sanger at the Shell Centre requesting sight of all information about us held by the UK company SABAH SHELL PETROLEUM COMPANY LTD covered by the UK Data Protection Act. We heard from Mr Sanger today regarding another matter relating to our Subject Access Request dated 31 May 2007.
Thank you again for the speed with which you dealt with my request and for the straight forward answer. It is very much appreciated and your kindness will not be forgotten.