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Royal Dutch Shell, Tony Blair and Muammar Gaddafi

From pages 42 & 43 of “Royal Dutch Shell and its sustainability troubles” – Background report to the Erratum of Shell’s Annual Report 2010

The report was made on behalf of Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands)
Author: Albert ten Kate: May 2011.

In May 2005, Shell signed an agreement to start a joint venture with the Libyan National Oil Corporation. The joint venture would revamp and expand the existing liquified natural gas (LNG) Plant at Marsa el-Brega on the Libyan coast. It would also explore for gas and subsequently develop five areas totalling 20,000 square kilometres located in the heart of Libya’s Sirte Basin. Shell was committed to invest USD 637 million in the first phase of the joint venture.

Already in March 2004, Malcolm Brinded, head of exploration and production at Shell, stated: “We were in Libya in the Fifties and we were in Libya in the Eighties for an exploration programme, but for this one we came back in 2001 and so this is the culmination of discussions over that.” International sanctions on Libya were lifted in 2003 and 2004. Thus, Shell had been fishing for contracts from Gaddafi a long time before international sanctions were lifted.

In April 2010, documents obtained by the UK newspaper The Times revealed that the former UK prime minister Tony Blair lobbied Colonel Muammar Gaddafi on behalf of Shell. Shell had written a letter in draft form for Mr Blair to write to Colonel Gaddafi. In May 2005, shortly after Mr Blair’s official letter was written, Shell secured the deal.

Both letters were released after a lengthy Freedom of Information process. The Cabinet Office of the UK government would release only a part of Mr Blair’s official letter. In its draft-letter, Shell tells the Prime Minister to congratulate the Libyan leader on Revolution Day and to comment on the “remarkable year of progress for Libya”. In relation to its deal, the draft letter from Shell said: “Understand that all the terms of the agreement have now been negotiated and approved now waiting for [Libyan] Cabinet approval.” The section on Shell in Mr Blair’s official letter sounded very similar to the draft: “I understand that the necessary technical discussions with the relevant authorities in Libya have been completed satisfactorily. All that is needed now are final decisions by the [Libyan] General People’s Committee to go ahead.” Shell declined to comment to The Times. The journalist of The Times, David Robertson, later characterised Shell’s draft- letter “unusually informal or unusually forward in the way that Shell thought it would be able to dictate British foreign policy.”

In September 2009, The Times requested all communication between the UK Department for Business and the following companies: BP, BG group and Shell (all oil and gas companies), and defence company BAE Systems. A limited number were released in December 2009. One was an email from Shell to UK Trade & Investment dated September 2004 complaining of slow progress with its Libyan deal. Just months earlier Mr Blair and Colonel Gaddafi had met in a tent outside Tripoli to end Libya’s diplomatic isolation.


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Shell wrote letter Tony Blair used in £325m Libyan oil deal (Daily Mail)


THE COMPLETE 73 PAGE REPORT (with reference sources)

Royal Dutch Shell Executive Director Malcolm Brinded and Gaddafi.

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