By John Donovan
Since 22 October 2014 I have been updating an article posing the question: “Shell being blackmailed?”
Top people at Royal Dutch Shell have all spoken directly to a director of a former Shell “Mr Fixit” company in Ireland, OSSL, which has bombarded Shell with money demands to settle a dispute that Shell says it has already settled.
To be specific, Desmond Kane of OSSL has spoken in person to Peter Voser, Ben van Beurden, Jorma Ollila, Michiel Brandjes, Michael Crothers (and other senior people at Shell).
My impression is that OSSL built a reputation inside Shell for being the perfect Mr Fixit, willing to engage in clandestine activity at Shell’s behest to smooth the troubled path of the long delayed and billions over budget Corrib Gas Project in Ireland. A small company prepared to bend rules and do the dirty work, including lying and bearing false witness for its valued client Shell, provided it was well rewarded.
That kind of relationship can backfire.
In my last update, I stated that I have received multiple threats from a law firm. The threats all came from Mr Marc Fitzgibbon, a senior partner of Lavelle, the Dublin solicitors representing OSSL.
Regular visitors to this webpage know that I have published countless articles about OSSL allegations, in which they claim to have delivered free alcohol to the Irish Police on behalf of Shell. Personally, I doubt that it ever reached ordinary officers. It was offloaded by senior Garda officers.
In April 2013, I sent an email to a senior journalist at the Guardian newspaper, Ed Vulliumy, and Maurah Harringtom of the Shell to Sea campaign, expressing reservations about the integrity of OSSL and included this comment in my email:
“I have often felt uneasy about OSSL. Suspected we were being used to apply pressure. There is another term I could use.”
Three investigations by the Irish Police found no evidence to support the OSSL allegations. Likewise, two internal investigations by Shell. The same basic line was trotted out after each of the five investigations – no evidence to support the allegations. (OSSL claims this is because it was all destroyed on Shell’s instructions.)
The entire Irish news media seemed to accept the damning verdict on OSSL allegations, which effectively meant that OSSL are fantasizers and liars.
This situation left OSSL desperate to prove that in fact, their allegations are true.
Desmond Kane and Neil Rooney, both from OSSL, had a meeting with their solicitor, Mr Marc Fittzgibbon, in Dublin at the end of July. Unbeknown to him, they covertly recorded the entire 42 minute discussion.
Both during the recorded meeting and in related subsequent correspondence, Marc Fitzgibbon confirmed that the supply of alcohol to the Irish police by OSSL, at the instruction of Shell, was openly discussed in his presence during the three meetings with Shell attended by him, Desmond Kane and Neil Rooney. This was the alcohol which supposedly never existed. Senior people from Shell were present during the negotiations, including Michael Crothers on at least one occasion. Crothers is the CEO/MD of Irish Shell.
Selective extracts from the recorded meeting held in Dublin at the end of July 2014 between Marc Fitzgibbon, Desmond Kane and Neil Rooney:
Marc: …there were references made to the alcohol… I’m happy to confirm in the London meeting and indeed at the other… next meeting…”
Des: you see what Shell are saying is the first thing they knew about alcohol in any shape or form was when I produced the invoice after the mediation payment”
Marc: But they can’t say that because
Des: but they are saying that
Marc: …I have no hesitation in saying I do recall that in both meetings you introduced… you bought to the attention of the meeting to the alcohol claim and mediation I can’t recall because of so many discussions in the room and out of the room… but my recollection is that there was a kind of a gap in the agreement from their point of view in that it doesn’t cover off the alcohol…
All are references to the alcohol, which according to Shell, never existed.
In a state of exhilaration, believing with justification that they now had proof from an officer of the courts that their allegations were true, OSSL supplied the entire recording to me, probably without even listening to it. If they had done so, they might have thought better about giving me a copy, as some of the things said rung alarm bells with me.
I prepared a transcript and having typed every legible word, ended-up very familiar with the content, which does indeed provide evidence that Shell engaged in a cover-up over the alcohol and other “sweeteners” for the local population – one for several hundred thousand euros, and in the process, left Shell wide-open to blackmail.
At around 16 minutes into the Dublin meeting with OSSL, Mr Fitzgibbon noticed a red flashing light on a mobile phone belonging to one of the OSSL people present. He asked if the meeting was being recorded. OSSL was economical with the truth in its reply. However, Mr Fitzgibbon said that he did not care if the meeting was being recorded and went on with the discussion for another 25 minutes.
Mr Fitzgibbon stood his ground despite being put under considerable pressure to agree with OSSL’s version of the outcome of the negotiations with Shell and the terms of an eventual settlement agreement. His professional assessment on the status of the agreement was brushed aside by OSSL without any proper explanation of why OSSL should expect Shell to pay again.
Shell has indeed complained many times that OSSL has continually demanded money despite the fact that Shell had already agreed a final settlement with OSSL and paid accordingly.
In email correspondence with OSSL I made known my concern that they might be attempting to blackmail Shell. I made it plain that I did not want to be linked with their money demands to Shell and in August 2014 publicly disassociated myself and my website from these demands to Shell. 1. 2.
Desmond Kane asked to meet with me and explain why OSSL was not in his view doing anything illegal i.e. it is not attempting to blackmail Shell. I met him, but received no satisfactory explanation. What he said only increased my concern.
I sent an email to Mr Fiztgibbon on 18 October and advised that his suspicions about his meeting with OSSL being recorded were well founded. I gave him extracts from the recording, but not the whole recording. I sent a copy of the email to Michiel Brandjes at Shell. I gave Mr Fitzgibbon and Shell the opportunity to take any action they deemed proper to stop me supplying the recording and other evidence to the Irish Justice Minister, the Irish Police, the Irish Police Ombudsman Commission and the Irish news media.
On Friday 24 October I received an email from Mr Fitzgibbon making threats.
The correspondence is self-explanatory.
From: Marc Fitzgibbon <[email protected]>
To: John Donovan <[email protected]>
Date: 24 October 2014 13:24:30 BST
Subject: Re: OSSL/Shell
Dear Me Donovan,
I refer to your several e-mails. I would be obliged if you would take note of the following.
1. I was not at any stage of the consultation that I had with Mr Kane and Mr Rooney aware that the meeting was being recorded and nor did I at any stage consent or agree to the recording.
2. I consider any steps that you might take to share all or part of the recording with any of the persons mentioned by you to be a breach of client privilege, and confidentiality and of Data Protection.
3. Please take this e-mail as notice of my intention to report any such breach to the Data Commissioner and or take what others gal steps are necessary to prevent any unlawful use of this material.
I trust that I have made my position clear.
Sent from my iPhone
RESPONSE BY JOHN DONOVAN
Subject: Re: OSSL/Shell
From: John Donovan <[email protected]>
Date: 24 October 2014 17:37:38 BST
To: Marc Fitzgibbon <[email protected]>
Dear Mr Marc Fitzgibbon
Sorry, but the position is not clear.
Are your threats being made on your behalf, or on behalf of your client OSSL, or on behalf of both parties?
I will deal with your three points in the order that you raise them:
1: You made it plain that if the discussion was being recorded, as you suspected, then you had no objection. As I have pointed out, you continued with the discussion for a further 25 minutes after you raised the subject. The recording speaks for itself.
2: The recording was supplied to me by your client OSSL who recorded it on their own recording device. The purpose for which it was supplied to me was expanded following a discussion I had on Friday 17 October with Mr Desmond Kane. The first time I have ever spoken to him. I have a record of that discussion.
3: I do take note of your threats. Dealing with the Data Commissioner threat, is this the Irish Data Commissioner? Please note in this regard that I am not an Irish citizen, nor am I resident within Irish jurisdiction. With regards to the further threats, are you saying that if I was to supply the evidence now in my possession to the Irish Justice Minister, to report a serious crime for police investigation, this act would itself be unlawful? If so, unlawful under which jurisdiction?
I do not think the Irish Justice Minister, or more importantly, Irish citizens, will be pleased with the disingenuous role of Shell and in particular the Managing Director/CEO of Irish Shell, Mr Michael Crothers, in these matters.
Mr Crothers has deceived the Irish nation and will feature prominently in the evidence I will be preparing over the weekend for supply to TD’s, the Irish Justice Minster, the Garda Commissioner and the Garda Ombudsman Commissioner.
Under his tenure SEPIL categorically denied OSSL allegations. He knew this was a lie.
It was a nice PR move on the part of Shell to bury a broadband cable alongside the Corrib pipeline. It will not be as easy to bury or disregard the evidence I will be turning over to the Irish authorities, which will include the recorded meeting.
Threats will not suffice. You will need to take action. The question you must ask yourself is whether such action would be in the Irish public interest.
I am sure you already have a good idea of how much is at stake as far as Royal Dutch Shell is concerned. No doubt they have already been in contact. A blackmail victim frightened to report extortion demands because they have something shameful to hide.
I trust that I have made my position clear.
EMAIL EXCHANGE ENDS
I have further evidence, but will be saving it for the Irish Justice Minister. It includes the panicked reaction by Shell after Mr Brandjes received my email on 18 October.
For the record, as far as I know, Mr Fitzgibbon has acted with absolute integrity at all times. The same cannot be said for his client or for Shell.
To the best of my knowledge, Shell has not reported any of the alleged blackmail notes, nor taken action under defamation or harassment laws. Why not? The answer, is because Shell knows the basic allegations by OSSL are true and therefore potentially highly damaging to the reputation of Shell.
Shell has almost succeeded in keeping a lid on an explosive subject.
Some Shell executives may have committed criminal offenses by participation in the cover-up of corruption, falsification of related invoices and deliberately holding back evidence during the recent deeply flawed investigation by the Irish Police Ombudsman Commission (the GSOC).
Mr Crothers, the main subject of an Irish newspaper article published on 26 October, was appointed CEO of Shell Ireland after the corrupt activities involving OSSL had ceased. It seemed initially that he might intervene to uphold Shell’s claimed business principles, but instead chose to become part of the cover-up.
Johan Groenewald, who led the GSOC investigation, did not even bother to contact Mr Fitzgibbon, although I supplied him with contact details. That tells us all we need to know about the thoroughness and competence of his investigation.
The Irish government will have the challenge, after all that has happened, of finding anyone with the qualifications, integrity and genuine independence, to properly investigate a possible blackmail plot targeting Shell.
That person or body should also investigate the legitimacy of a related OSSL alcohol invoice to Shell. Was it genuine, or a fake and therefore a form of blackmail note – key evidence of a blackmail plot?
The fact that the main platform of the blackmail is alcohol OSSL supplied as a mega bribe/gift from Shell to the Irish police for protecting the Corrib Gas Project project from protestors, makes the whole situation even more complicated and ironic. How can the police investigate blackmail relating to alcohol that Shell and the Irish police have always dismissed as an illusion?
Mr Kane strongly denies any wrongdoing. However, thus far, he has not supplied any credible explanation that I have seen of why he believes Shell still owes money to his company, over €200,000.
In my view, what is needed now is nothing less that a public inquiry.