Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image Shell defamation action against Dr John Huong: An Open Offer to Shell

6 August 2006  

Mr Kandiah
T H Liew & Partners                               
Level 28 Central Plaza                            
34 Jalan Ismail                                     
50250 Kuala Lumpur                                     

Dear Mr Kandiah

RE: LAW SUIT NO. S2-23-41-2004

I am writing with regard to the contempt of court proceedings which you have brought against Dr John Huong of behalf of the EIGHT multinational companies within the Royal Dutch Shell Group which you represent in the related defamation action.  I understand from Mr Eric Siow of Lee Ong & Kandiah, the esteemed lawyers acting for Dr John Huong, that the hearing is now to take place on Thursday, 17th August. I further understand that the plaintiff Shell companies are asking the High Court to expunge the testimony provided by my father, Alfred Donovan, if he is not produced in Court by Dr Huong for cross-examination. 

My father is in his ninetieth year. He is partly disabled and has had half a lung removed. He has a heart condition and diabetes. This may all be good news for Shell management but it is simply not realistic for my father to undertake such an arduous journey given his advanced age and his medical condition.  I would assume that neither T H Liew nor Shell management would like to put his life at risk. Even if I am wrong in that assumption, I am sure that Dr Huong, who is a deeply religious man of the very highest integrity, would not want him to make the trip in such circumstances, even though my father’s evidence is vital to his defence to prevent Dr Huong from being committed to prison.  As Mr Siow is aware, we had to make special arrangements so that my father could appear before a local Notary Public for the translation and swearing of his affidavit because he was not well enough to travel to the nearest Malaysian High Commission.  

Because of the difficulties in arranging the relevant formalities, we prepared an alternative affidavit in my name. Indeed, Mr Siow provided me with the finalised version. As you are aware, I have been intimately involved in all relevant matters, as is indicated in my fathers’ affidavit. However, we were then able to arrange for a Malaysian translator to travel to our locality to attend at the offices of the local Notary and therefore reverted to my father’s affidavit. If we had any inkling that his testimony might be required in person, in Malaysia, we would have used my affidavit from the outset. 

From one aspect, my evidence could be of more assistance to the court because due to my father’s poor hearing, I handled all of the telephone conversations with Dr Huong. My father only spoke with Dr Huong briefly from time to time. 

I would be prepared to supply the affidavit in my name already prepared and travel to Malaysia for cross-examination provided that your EIGHT Royal Dutch Shell clients, cover all reasonable costs involved, including provision of suitable independent local legal representation. This seems a fair way forward bearing in mind that it is Shell that is insisting on a cross-examination. I would require access to independent legal advice before I travelled to Malaysia so that the Malaysian lawyers appointed to advise and represent me could study relevant documents. They could then decide if I would need to seek assurances about the possibility of contempt of court proceedings being brought against me, bearing in mind comments made by you in your affidavit. While I would happily stay at the local Marriot, I am less keen on accommodation involving a small window with iron bars.  

In other words, if Shell wants testimony in Malaysia from the party which admits publishing the alleged defamatory comments, then it is available provided Shell covers reasonable costs. There is precedent as Shell International General Counsel, Richard Wiseman, would confirm. He described the arrangement between ourselves and Shell in that instance (which we negotiated with a Shell Chairman) as being “bananas”. However even Mr Wiseman would probably recognise that this would be a practical and fair solution on this occasion. In any event, Shell’s profits from a few seconds worth of global income generated from the record high prices of oil would easily cover relevant expenses. 

As Mr Wiseman is also aware, I have some experience of being cross-examined by a barrister acting for Shell. Perhaps Geoffrey Hobbs QC, said to be the most intelligent man in Britain, would like to resume our interesting three day marathon cut and thrust discussion about Shell, this time in a more exotic location. It would be nice, if on this occasion, we could avoid Shell undercover agents, witness intimidation, court room ambush tactics and most importantly, a heavily biased Judge with undisclosed Shell connections. 

By coincidence or otherwise, Mr Justice Laddie subsequently resigned in controversial circumstances after my father had complained to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, about the Judges bizarre behaviour.  In another coincidence, Sir Hugh Laddie now works for a consultancy firm which has Shell as a client. In other words, I hope that unlike our last experience with Shell’s disgraceful misuse of power and influence, the Malaysian judiciary operates in an impartial manner offering a level playing field for litigants. 

I am encouraged by the fact that a Malaysian High Court Judge ruled that Shell acted unlawfully in making deductions from the retirement funds of Shell Malaysia employees. I am less encouraged by the fact that in the relevant case brought by 399 current/former Shell employees (known as “Team A”), an appeal brought by Shell seems to be dragging on indefinitely while in the meantime, elderly members of Team A are ill and dying. I am also baffled that in an apparent clear breach of natural justice, Shell is being allowed to insist that although Dr Huong has been unemployed for over two years and has no money left after paying legal fees, he still has to travel 1300 kilometres to a High Court nominated by Shell. This is despite the fact that there is a High Court in the City where Dr Huong resides. 

The tactics against Dr Huong are in line with our own experience of Shell lawyers deliberately and ruthlessly following a policy of draining the resources of a financially weaker opponent.  In our case, we even have a letter from a Shell lawyer threatening to “make the litigation drawn out and difficult”. We warned far and wide about a thoroughly dishonest, incompetent Shell management, which engaged in a corporate culture of cover-up and deceit. Most people probably thought that we were cranks. 

That view may have changed after the world wide shock of the Shell reserves scandal described in a BBC programme as the biggest fraud in corporate history. This was followed by a string of other scandals: the Corrib debacle in Ireland (where Shell had five people jailed), the sale of tainted gasoline, fictitious trading, the Brent Bravo tragedy, a $10 BILLION cost overrun on the Sakhalin 2 white elephant project in Russia and the continuing crimes by Shell against Nigerian nationals in the obscene plunder and pollution of Nigeria. As a Shell insider pointed out to me yesterday, there is a common denominator in most of these scandals: his name is Malcolm Brinded. This happens to be the same Shell Executive who ignored my warnings of corruption inside Shell and ignored a letter from Dr Huong pleading to meet with him. 

With all due modesty, I doubt if anyone else (other than Shell management) has as much knowledge of the numerous skeletons rattling around in the proverbial bulging Shell scandal cupboard.  I therefore relish the prospect of giving evidence.   

Please bring this offer to the attention of the honourable court. 

Yours sincerely
John Donovan 

Mr. Eric Siow, Lee Ong & Kandiah
Dr John Huong
Jeroen van der Veer, Chief Executive, Royal Dutch Shell Plc
Mr Malcolm Brinded, Executive Director, Shell Exploration and Production
Richard Wiseman, General Counsel Shell International Petroleum Company Limited

More Information


Shell whistleblower, Dr John Huong, a former Shell geologist, is being sued for defamation by EIGHT Royal Dutch Shell companies, including Sarawak Shell Bhd; Shell Malaysia Trading Sendirian Berhad; Shell Refining Company (Federation of Malaya) Bhd; Shell Timur Sdn Bhd; Shell Exploration And Production Malaysia B.V.; Shell Oil And Gas (Malaysia) Llc; Shell Sabah Selatan Sdn Bhd and Sabah Shell Petroleum Company Ltd. Dr Huong, a Malaysian, seems to be rather outnumbered. It is not a case of David vs. Goliath but more like David vs. King Kong.


This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

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