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Chinese Whispers about the death of a Hakluyt agent

The fact that Mr Heywood worked for Hakluyt (the corporate intelligence firm closely linked with Shell), is said to be seen by some as a clue to his untimely death. Titled Shell directors were the ultimate spymasters and major shareholders in Hakluyt.


Dear Mr Brandjes

I am sure you will be aware of the recent articles concerning sinister events in China.

Today, BBC News published an article: China arrests over coup rumours

Almost all of the articles contain a reference to Mr Neil Heywood, the 41 year old Englishmen found dead in mysterious circumstances at a hotel in the Chinese city, Chongqing.

The Telegraph published a related article earlier today under the headline: ‘I think Neil Heywood was killed… everyone’s scared’.


“The mystery over the death in China of Old Harrovian Neil Heywood deepens by the day, with calls for Scotland Yard to investigate allegations of poisoning.”

With its head office in Mayfair, branches in New York and Singapore and a website that provides minimal information, Hakluyt prides itself on its discretion and access to the high-powered, with an impressive list of clients, and an advisory board that includes former senior politicians and diplomats. The company attracted unwelcome publicity in 2001 after it used an undercover agent, known as Manfred, in environmental groups targeting Shell and BP. It has not been pleased by these latest reports of its involvement in the “murky world of corporate intelligence” and has been keen to play down Heywood’s role.

The fact that Mr Heywood worked for Hakluyt & Co Limited (the corporate intelligence firm closely linked with Shell), is said to be seen by some as a clue to his untimely death. As you know, titled Shell directors were the ultimate spymasters and major shareholders in Hakluyt.

As you are also aware, Ian Forbes McCredie OBE, the former/current MI6 senior official, who until December 2010 headed up Shell Corporate Security, has returned to the Hakluyt/MI6 spy nest.

This is the email response I received when I tried to contact him at Shell.

AutoReply from his Shell email address:

From: [email protected]
Date: 12 April 2011 21:19:23 GMT+01:00
To: [email protected]
Subject: Out of Office AutoReply: Test

I retired from Shell on 31 Dec 2010 but can be contacted on [email protected] or +44 (0) 20 7491 5213.

Nico den Boer will be acting Vice President for Corporate Security until my successor assumes the role.

In relation to the sudden demise of the Hakluyt agent Neil Heywood, Hakluyt issued a statement on 27 March saying:

Neil had a long history of advising western companies in China and we were among those who sought his advice. We are greatly saddened by his death’

Given the apparent role of Mr Heywood in China as a deal fixer with high level connections, and Shell’s long association with Hakluyt, I wondered whether Mr Heywood and/or Hakluyt, had any involvement/connection with the shale gas deals recently announced by Royal Dutch Shell?

Royal Dutch Shell in Deal for China Shale Gas

Shell inks China’s first shale gas deal

Dead British businessman in China had links to ex-MI6 officers’ firm

Perhaps the timing and links are all just coincidental, but I would welcome any comment you may wish to make, which will be added to this article.

Best Regards

John Donovan


UPDATE ADDED ON 6 April 2012:  I have corresponded with Shell over the past few days on various matters, including my invitation to RDS Company Secretary Michiel Brandjes to deny that Shell has had any connection with Neil Heywood/Hakluyt in relation to the recent shale gas deal signed with the Chinese government. Mr Brandjes has addressed other matters raised, but has chosen to ignore that matter entirely. I was surprised yesterday when Mr Brandjes raised the subject of Shell’s Code of Conduct. I thought Shell had forgotten about the existence of its claimed Business Principles.


By Stephen Robinson 30 March 2012

MI6, a death in China and the very secretive Mayfair company full of spooks

Labelled a ‘convenient rest home’ for spies, Hakluyt had always managed to stay in the shadows – until a top intelligence operator lost his life in murky circumstances.

The links between the company and MI6 have always been strong. Spies preparing for retirement are approached discreetly in St James’s clubs and asked if they would like some lucrative freelance action to top up their pensions.

“One person familiar with that world regards Hakluyt as “a convenient rest home for MI6 men” and suggests that “once an MI6 man, always an MI6 man”.

Hakluyt regards itself as operating at the top end of one of the capital’s most lucrative service industries. It has the most impressive list of big corporations, with particularly close links to the big oil firms.

The company attracted unwelcome publicity in 2001 when it emerged it had used an undercover agent known as Manfred to penetrate environmental groups targeting Shell and BP. Fouad Hamdan of Greenpeace Germany said at the time: “The bastard was good, I have to admit,” which Hakluyt will have taken as a compliment of sorts.

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

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