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Garda Ombudsman Investigation of Shell Corruption allegations in disarray

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 16.11.57By John Donovan 

The investigation of allegations made by a Shell whistleblower company OSSL, of alleged Shell sponsored corruption of the Irish police, appears to be in a shambles following ill-judged on-the-record comments by the officer leading the inquiry, Johan Groenewald.

The relevant extraordinary email correspondence with me can be viewed here.

In the exchanges, which became heated on his part, Mr Groenewald denounced OSSL as being untrustworthy, rubbished and disregarded vital evidence, issued a threat against me and denied that he tore up (and has apparently disregarded) statements given to a senior Garda officer by OSSL directors. At some point he seems to have lost his impartiality. 

His reckless comments seem to have undermined and preempted the pending publication of his findings.

Realising the significance of what he had put in writing, I gave Mr Groenewald the opportunity to retract his comments. He declined to do so after claiming that his superiors were aware of his comments. All of this can be verified by reading the correspondence.  

Some Irish citizens might conclude in the light of his comments that a cover-up is in the pipeline.

I am bringing this latest development in the scandals surrounding the Irish Justice Department, the Garda and the Garda Ombudsman to the attention of every Irish TD. A Garda Commissioner and the Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter have already resigned.

OSSL allegations arose from its role as a Shell Mr Fixit company trying on Shell’s instructions to smooth the rocky path of the long delayed highly controversial Shell led Corrib Gas Project by handing out sweeteners to landowners and the cops. The Irish news media received free wine packs directly from Shell as part of the corruption policy.

Corruption is nothing new to Shell.  e.g.

Shell to pay $48m Nigerian bribe fine: Daily Telegraph 4 November 2010


These companies, including Shell, admitted they “approved of or condoned the payment of bribes on their behalf in Nigeria and falsely recorded the bribe payments made on their behalf as legitimate business expenses in their corporate books, records and accounts”.

SHELL IN BRIBERY FINE: Daily Express 6 November 2010


Shell must pay a $30million “criminal penalty” over charges it paid $2million to a sub-contractor “with the knowledge that some or all of the money” would be used to bribe Nigerian officials to allow equipment into the country without paying duty. Shell, which has not admitted guilt, must pay a further $18million to repay profits and interests.

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  1. Jerry Fletcher says:

    Still does not answer my questions.

  2. Jerry Fletcher says:

    John, you have created a demon here. What was OSSL’s response that they failed to cooperate?

    1. Did OSSL make statements to the GSOC?
    2. Did they personally handover any evidence in support of their clams?
    3. How did they assist in the investigations?

    You have only published limited information about this from the start. Yes there is a large amount of correspondence and claims made but is the results of the investigations known?

    There is a serious credibility issue here and so far the case is very one sided.

    Again there is very limited information about the cases but from the file you have created for OSSL and the invoice that was created nearly 5 years after the date in question, there would be evidence to prove the case. You talking financial transactions and from the invoice it is a large amount. Was that evidence provided?

    Jerry Fletcher


    I have copies of OSSL recent emails to Mr Groenewald in direct response to what Mr Groenewald said in his emails to me. It would be fair to say that they take an entirely different view over what happened in relation to the evidence, their alleged lack of cooperation and their allegation that Mr Groenewald tore up statements they gave to a senior Garda officer. They claim that during a meeting with Mr Groenewald on 12 December they offered to forward on to Mr Groenewald the 110 page evidence file, but he said he already had it. Given the gravity of the allegations and the scandal about the Garda bugging of GSOC offices, its seems fair to assume that someone – the Garda or the GSOC, recorded audio and/or video of what happened at the meetings in question. If not, they should have done. What’s the betting that next time round they will. There are files of information/evidence already gathered in the two initial Garda internal investigations and the two Shell internal investigations. Ed Vulliamy was refused access to any of that information. Why? As far as I know, no outside independent party has been allowed to view any of that information. Instead OSSL corruption allegations have been allowed to linger and fester for all of this time and have been eclipsed recently by other Garda/Justice Ministry/GSOC scandals with resignations of the Garda Commissioner and the Justice Minister Alan Shatter. It is not OSSL that has been un-coperate in supplying evidence, but the Garda and Shell. OSSL kindly supplied it to me immediately I made a request for evidence and on one has claimed the emails, letters etc are not authentic. What are the Garda and Shell trying to hide? I would argue that the current situation demands full public disclosure of the Garda/Shell investigation files of OSSL allegations.

  3. Jerry Fletcher says:

    Since when is Northern Ireland not in the UK? When you say common knowledge in the media you surely mean common knowledge about what OSSL is alleging. Why has OSSL not come forward with some kind of evidence to show to the public what they say is true. Common sense approach I would say.

    Don’t get me wrong, I was following the case and waiting to hear about the corruption and guards getting pissed. So far it’s the same story over and over. As a concern Irish citizen I would like to know if An Garda Siochana is involve with what is alleged.

    Why don’t you publish the evidence from OSSL so we can believe what you are saying is true. You mention cover up. How can it be if OSSL can disprove the cover up and come forward to the media here and present their facts.

    Jerry Fletcher


    Fair point, both OSSL directors live in the UK, one in Northern Ireland but have returned to Ireland for meetings with the GSOC and Shell. There is common knowledge in the media and the Irish establishment about the allegations. Ed Vulliamy, the senior correspondent of the Guardian/Observer has made it plain in a TV interview, without any legal qualification, that OSSL did supply alcohol to the Garda. He reached that conclusion after interviews/correspondence with the Garda, Shell, OSSL and other parties. I don’t think he reached that judgement as a result of any decisive piece of evidence, but based on an overall assessment. I first published the evidence several months ago and there is a link on the email correspondence article to the file. According to OSSL, Shell carefully collected and destroyed all evidence. I reached the same verdict as Ed Vulliamy and have explained why in numerous articles. The day that I first heard of the allegations, 10 Sept 2012, I wrote to the Company Secretary and General Counsel Corporate of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mr Michiel Brandjes. He is my designated contact at Shell. This is what I said.

    Dear Mr Brandjes

    Printed below is a self-explanatory email received today.

    If you wish to investigate this matter kindly let me know by 3pm UK time today. If I receive no response by then, I will assume that the email is authentic and that this is another one of those occasions where Shell does not wish to comment on the allegations being made. Readers will then be able to draw their own conclusions.

    If, however, you do wish to investigate, then we will not publish anything on this matter until you have had a reasonable time to establish the facts. Just let me know by 3pm UK time that you do intend to investigate before responding further.

    Any response will, as normal, be published in full, unedited by us.

    Best Regards
    John Donovan

    Mr Brandjes did not reply.

    If he had done so and categorically stated that OSSL allegations were entirely false, I would not have published anything about the allegations.

    One thing we seem to agree on is that the guilty party – Shell or OSSL, should be exposed.

  4. Jerry Fletcher says:

    Oh dear has somebody exposed OSSL for who they really are. They are very brave sitting in the UK and making up stories. The Shell to Sea campaigners should ask OSSL one question, how much did you pay the revenue? From my understanding they evaded paying any tax and the whole issue was over tax that was deducted by Shell. Mr fixit is right, fix the tax bill.

    I have read that there was more than one investigation about the issue of the alcohol. Why has John Donovan or OSSL not reported on the findings. Surely they had evidence to back up their story and if it is true what they say why have we not read about it.

    Why has not anybody came forward as a witness to the allegation of the alcohol. If the guards received alcohol for 3 years surely it would have been very hard to keep quiet. The whole story of the garda whistleblowers and the report of corruption. Can anybody tell me if it was reported about what OSSL is alleging.

    I went through the OSSL paperwork on the other site and could not see any evidence that what they say is true. That is a lot of money they paid for alcohol. Why is there no paperwork for that?

    I have been following this story from the start when seeing OSSL in Dublin at Shell office not far from my work place and I am starting to have my doubts.

    Jerry Fletcher


    No, they are not both sitting in the UK. One of them resides in Ireland or Northern Ireland. Both have attended meetings with in Ireland with Shell and with Mr Groenewald. At least one member of the news media has been approached by past OSSL employees and confirmed that it was common knowledge within the firm about the alcohol being supplied. As to the story being reported, it has been covered by The Guardian, The Times, The Irish Times, plus many other mainstream news sources including radio and TV. There were two internal investigations at Shell and two internal investigations by the Garda. Both organisations said there was no evidence to support the allegations. Both refused to allow media access to the internal investigation papers or findings. As to taxation issues, that may well be a can of worms. OSSL claim that Shell insisted that they hand over all transactional records for the alcohol so there was no evidence of what occurred.

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