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. (Head cut image of Alfred Donovan courtesy of The Wall Street Journal)
Self-explanatory email correspondence between royaldutchshellplc.com owner Alfred Donovan and Michiel Brandjes, Company Secretary and General Counsel Corporate, Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
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 acknowledgment, 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 stress 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.
RESPONSE FROM MICHIEL BRANDJES
From: [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 03 August 2007 16:59
To: [email protected]
Subject: 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 AN The Hague,
Tel: +31 70 377 2625 Fax: 3687
Email: [email protected]
Mr Brandjes subsequently confirmed that Shell would abandon its demand for Alfred Donovan to travel to Malaysia for cross-examination. Shell later settled with Dr Huong on an out-of-court basis because its defamation case was a complete shambles brought by incompetent Shell lawyers in Malaysia at the behest of Shell Malaysia Country Chairman, Jon Chadwick.