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Heywood Murder Thrusts Employer Hakluyt Into Limelight

The firm was accused in a 2001 Sunday Times article of helping BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc spy on Greenpeace using a German agent called Manfred Schlickenrieder, who posed as a left-wing film-maker. Free University’s Blancke, who studied the incident, has computer files taken from Schlickenrieder’s room by environmental activists who became suspicious of his behavior. Those files include e-mails from Hakluyt.

By Kit Chellel and Jeremy Hodges – May 24, 2012 12:00 AM GMT+0100

Hakluyt & Co., the corporate investigations firm that hired British businessman Neil Heywood as a consultant in China, has been thrust by his death into a place it promises clients it will never be: the limelight.

“We guarantee complete confidentiality,” Hakluyt director Christopher James told Enron Corp.’s then Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling in 2001, according to an e-mail exchange that was released during a U.S. investigation into the bankrupt energy company. Hakluyt, James wrote, “places an unparalleled private intelligence network at the personal disposal of senior commercial figures.”

The mysterious death of the 41-year-old Heywood in November caused a political crisis in China and led to an investigation of the wife of a communist party chief, Bo Xilai, who was suspended from the ruling Politburo last month. The continuing probe into whether Heywood was killed by Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, keeps the focus on Hakluyt, whose board includes ex- chairmen of BHP Billiton PLC and BBC Worldwide and consultants who are former diplomats and members of Parliament.

Hakluyt — named after a 16th century English author who wrote about journeys to far-off lands — said in an e-mailed statement that Heywood wasn’t a full-time employee. The firm, rarely written about in news accounts, declined to comment on his role or its work in China other than to say it’s a “strategic information consultancy” with company clients.

Aston Martins, Taxis

Heywood developed close ties to one of China’s most powerful political families. He got to know Bo, the former Chongqing Communist Party chief, doing favors such as getting Bo’s son into the elite British boarding school Harrow.

His consulting company, Neil Heywood & Associates Ltd., also advised Aston Martin and Manganese Bronze Holdings Plc, a maker of London taxis.

Heywood, found dead in Chongqing on Nov. 15, appears to have been part of a global network of consultants who use local connections to provide intelligence for Hakluyt clients, said Dr. Stephan Blancke, a researcher and analyst who studied Hakluyt and firms like it at the Free University in Berlin.

Melissa Sweet, an Australian health journalist, had a chance to join Hakluyt’s circle. She received an e-mail from the firm in 2008 offering her work as a consultant.

“We have a proprietary network of well-placed individuals around the world who are able to provide us, very discreetly, with intelligence on specific commercial or political issues,” Hakluyt said in the e-mail to Sweet. Those individuals are asked not to reveal the firm’s or its clients’ identities, she was told.

Sweet said in a phone interview the e-mail was the only contact she had with Hakluyt.

16th Century Author

Hakluyt also has top-level links to government and business. The London-based company’s U.K. and international advisory boards include Niall Fitzgerald, former deputy chairman of Thomson Reuters UK Ltd. and an adviser to Morgan Stanley; Sir Kieran Prendergast, former United Nations under secretary- general for political affairs; John Rose, the former CEO of Rolls Royce; Robert Webb, ex-chairman of BBC Worldwide; Edward Isdell, former chairman of Coca-Cola; and former BHP chairman Donald Argus.

Two members of the U.K. parliament, which is weighing new regulations for private investigators, have worked as Hakluyt advisers or consultants. Andrew Mitchell, the U.K. Secretary of State for International Development, is listed as a former adviser to Hakluyt on a parliamentary website.

Mitchell’s Westminster office said this was between 1998 and 2001 when he wasn’t a serving MP. “His official links to Hakluyt are in the public domain,” according to a spokesman, who declined to be identified, citing office policy.

Former Spies, Reporters

James Gray, a conservative lawmaker from North Wiltshire, is also listed as a former Hakluyt consultant. His office didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

Consultants can also be embassy staff, former spies or reporters, said Blancke, who wrote his doctoral thesis on corporate investigations firms.

“Hakluyt and all the other similar companies try to recruit people with a special know-how in getting access to sensitive information,” he said.

The British corporate investigation industry makes more than 100 million pounds ($157 million) a year, according to an estimate submitted to parliament by London-based Bishop International in January.

Hakluyt, which has 41 employees, made 5.6 million pounds in the fiscal year ending in June 2011 on revenue of 28.7 million pounds, according to company filings for its holding company Holdingham Group Ltd.

Enron E-Mails

The e-mails to Sweet and Enron give a rare insight into the firm’s marketing and recruitment. Hakluyt’s website contains no information besides its logo — a red armored gate — and contact details for offices in London, New York and Singapore.

James’s sales pitch to Skilling, who is now in jail for misleading investors about Enron’s financial condition, seemed to work. Hakluyt was paid about $450,000 by Enron, according to a 2003 bankruptcy filing that didn’t say what the money was for. The Skilling e-mails were published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Hakluyt is rarely written about — it was mentioned in eight newspaper stories in the 10 years prior to Heywood’s death. When it does make the news, it is usually for matters the firm would rather keep private.

Sunday Times Article

The firm was accused in a 2001 Sunday Times article of helping BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc spy on Greenpeace using a German agent called Manfred Schlickenrieder, who posed as a left-wing film-maker.

Free University’s Blancke, who studied the incident, has computer files taken from Schlickenrieder’s room by environmental activists who became suspicious of his behavior. Those files include e-mails from Hakluyt.

A 1997 message in German from Hakluyt Director Mike Reynolds discussed the location of Greenpeace ships and asked Schlickenrieder to use his informants to find out how the organization would respond to being sued, Blancke said.

“Hakluyt has from time to time provided general background information to Shell on global social and economic developments, but the company has never played any kind of role in specific business developments,” the company said in a statement. BP spokesman David Nicholas declined to comment.

Hakluyt declined to comment on the offer to Sweet, Enron e- mails or Greenpeace spying claims.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kit Chellel in London at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at [email protected]





I am an 87 year old partly disabled war pensioner.

I am not one of your constituents but I want to bring to your attention a matter of public concern to everyone interested in the fundamental right of a UK citizen to a fair trial, free of witness intimidation by corporate sponsored undercover agents.

I have supplied the Lord Chancellor with evidence that all of our key witnesses in a legal action against Shell UK Limited were undermined and/or neutralised by undercover investigators some of whom Shell has admitted hiring. In a systematic fashion every one of our witnesses was intimidated. That is fundamentally wrong. The same tactics were used against us. My letter to Lord Falconer is published on my website 

It seems that multinational corporations use undercover agents supplied by firms such as Hakluyt because it makes them once removed from direct responsibility for any unpleasant/illegal actions which might subsequently be exposed. In other words, scope for plausible denial with blame being attached to the intelligence firm, rather than the sponsoring client. This may explain the use of so-called “private contractors” in the interrogation of American held prisoners in Iraq. One such private intelligence firm involved, Titan Corporation, is the American equivalent to Hakluyt.

I first wrote to every MP in 1998 warning of a sinister aspect to Shell UK and a corporate culture of cover-up and deceit deeply ingrained at the highest levels of the Royal Dutch Shell Group. Therefore news reports of cover-up, deception and intrigue at Shell regarding the shortfall in oil and gas reserves hold no surprises to me. What I have to tell you involves the same Shell senior management figures named in the recent class action law suits alleging fraud and deceit. (Shell has just downgraded its oil reserves for the fourth time in as many months).

Shell internal emails reveal a conspiracy to mislead investors including numerous pension funds. The deception involved the top management at Shell some of whom still remain in their highly paid jobs. There is even talk of sending a £1m payoff cheque to Sir Philip Watts, the recently sacked Group Chairman. Presumably to secure his cooperation in the pending

multibillion dollar law suits. It is all reminiscent of the Mad Hatters Tea Party.

I am a long term Shell shareholder. In 1998 I also wrote to every Shell Transport director bringing to their attention sinister undercover activity against my family in relation to a lawsuit my son had brought against Shell. I recently discovered to my horror that I was in fact communicating directly with the then spymasters of “Hakluyt”, a shadowy organisation closely linked with MI6, specialising in undercover operations for corporate clients, including Shell. I understand that many MP’s believe that Hakluyt

is the commercial arm of MI6.

Directors/shareholders in Shell Transport were simultaneously directors/shareholders in Hakluyt. In fact Shell directors including a former Royal Dutch/Shell Group Chairman were at the helm of Hakluyt as its President and Chairman. Shell has admitted using Hakluyt in widespread undercover activities against its perceived enemies (Sunday Times article 17/6/01).

How could Shell promise in its “Statement of General Business Principles” transparency, integrity and honesty in all its dealings and yet be part and parcel of a sinister spying organisation whose stock in trade is deception and trickery? There is a huge credibility gap between these two extremes. Even Shell’s Code of Ethics is not what it seems. Shell Legal Director Richard Wiseman has confirmed in writing that Shell’s promises of integrity have no legal standing. Like a bet with a bookmaker they are binding in honour only. They are intended to create an image of a highly principled multinational but in reality are worthless; a sham.

My family, our witnesses and our solicitor were besieged and intimidated by undercover agents in the run up to the High Court trial. Burglaries occurred at the residences of a key witness, my son’s solicitor, and at our own house. Our privileged documents were examined. Shell Legal Director Richard Wiseman admitted in writing the activities of one undercover agent who was caught red-handed illegally checking our mail during an intelligence gathering mission. Kendall Freeman, the solicitors acting for Shell made the same written admission but warned us in a letter that other agents were also being used against us. This was also meant to intimidate us.

In addition to the covert operations against us and various NGO’s including Greenpeace and Body Shop, Shell simultaneously set up and paid for a private army of 1400 Police spies supporting the then murderous regime in Nigeria ( Mail on Sunday article 4 April 04)

The reparation and prosecution of my sons High Court Trial against Shell was completely undermined by the “no holds barred” tactics used against us. One key witness, a former Shell manager of long standing was too frightened to give evidence. The Police carried out enquiries but Shell obviously did not disclose its shameful expertise via Hakluyt in using the very tactics being investigated; tactics which in a UK setting, amounted to a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

This is why I have written to the Lord Chancellor seeking a police investigation. I have also sought assurances about the impartiality of the trial judge who has declined to answer a straightforward question about a possible professional/personal connection with the son of Shell’s Group Chairman at the time of the trial, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart. The judge is a man of the very highest integrity but I see no reason why he and others involved refuse to answer a legitimate question. I would be grateful if you could support my request to Lord Falconer for an investigation.

Please visit to read my sworn Affidavit concerning these matters. You will also find the world’s most comprehensive news portal website covering the Royal Dutch/Shell Group (on which my correspondence with Shell is being published).

Yours sincerely

Alfred Donovan

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

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