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Corrib Gas Project: Blackmail & Corruption?


This information is being supplied to you despite written threats I have received from Mr Marc Fitzgibbon, a senior partner of Dublin law firm, Lavelle.

Mr Fitzgibbon represents OSS, the small “Mr Fixit” company which has distributed “sweeteners” (bribes) to smooth the path of the controversial Corrib Gas Project – the consortium venture led by Shell (45%), in which the Norwegian State Oil company Statoil (36.5%) and the Canadian company, Vermilion Energy (18.5%), are Shell’s partners.

You may recall a related article by Ed Vulliamy published by The Observer newspaper in August 2013 under the headline “Strange tale of Shell’s pipeline battle, the Gardaí and £30,000 of booze.” My involvement is mentioned in the article.

Coincidentally, another article by Mr Vulliamy was published on Sunday by The Observer, which also puts the Irish Police in dock. Likewise an article published in Ireland yesterday “We need to talk about the Gardaí.

The confirmed recipients of Shell Christmas alcohol gifts have included the Irish news media. Shell has itself admitted in a press statement about the OSSL allegations, that Shell supplied Christmas hampers to local businesses and suppliers. Hence, there was nothing unusual about Irish Shell handing out gifts at Christmas.

However, Shell denies funding the Christmas time alcohol supplied in 2005, 2006, and 2007, via OSSL, to Garda officers involved with alleged aggressive policing of protests by anti-Corrib pipeline campaigners, such as “Shell to Sea.”

Mr Fitzgibbon was the key participant in a 42 minute meeting at the end of July 2014 with his clients, Desmond Kane and Neil Rooney of OSSL, which was covertly recorded by OSSL. The alcohol given to the Garda was the main subject discussed throughout the meeting. It was mentioned over 60 times in reference to the supposedly non existent alcohol.

The recollections of Mr Fitzgibbon are key because he was present alongside Mr Kane and Mr Rooney at three meetings with very senior people at Shell, when the provision of the sweeteners, including the police alcohol, was discussed.

As can he heard on the recording, the value of “sweeteners” supplied on behalf of Shell by OSSL to one lucky recipient, was allegedly worth several hundred thousand euros. Solicitors acting for the party in question sent a related warning letter to OSSL in February 2012, but have taken no action even though their client was named in correspondence circulated by OSSL. There appears to be a tacit acceptance in the solicitors letter that that their client was a beneficiary of Shell largess.

The third meeting between Shell and OSSL, of the three attended by Marc Fitzgibbon, was a mediation session on 2 August 2012 resulting in a full and final settlement agreement, the terms of which were bound by confidentiality. The mediation arose from legal proceedings OSSL had issued against Shell.

Shell thought the matter was at an end. That the settlement covered all outstanding sums for goods and services supplied by OSSL to Shell or on behalf of Shell. Mr Fitzgibbon appears to take the same view. That it was indeed a full and final settlement.

OSSL had other ideas.

According to Philip Boucher-Hayes of RTE, 22 days after the full and final settlement, “OSSL sent an invoice to Shell for a total of €43,000 euro including nearly €30,000 of alcohol purchases. The invoice claims to detail how OSSL on the instructions of a named Shell executive purchased the alcohol delivered to a number of named Gardai in Bellmullet and Athlone.”

If I understand the situation correctly, OSSL contends that it was only paid for the police alcohol supplied at Christmas time 2005 and 2006, but not for the much larger consignment of alcohol brought across the border at Christmas time 2007.

OSSL has showered Shell with money demands ever since. Emails have been sent by OSSL to Shell management and staff and other parties including the main contractor Roadbridge, Garda officers and Shell’s Corrib partners, Statoil and Vermilion.

OSSL first contacted me in September 2012 and I have subsequently authored and published in good faith over 100 articles highlighting their cause. By April 2013 I had become suspicious that OSSL were blackmailing Shell, but no evidence emerged until OSSL supplied me with a copy of the covert recording, containing information that heightened my concern.

I subsequently made it plain to Mr Kane, via email correspondence, that I was concerned about being implicated in what was going on if I took no action.

He asked to meet with me to be given the opportunity to explain why my fears were unfounded and the OSSL claim against Shell entirely proper. Rather than being reassured, my concerns were heightened by his lack of any credible explanation for persisting with the money demands.

I therefore decided to approach Mr Fitzgibbon to advise him that the suspicions he had expressed in the meeting with OSSL about his comments being recorded by OSSL, were well founded. I also notified him of my plans to report my suspicions of a blackmail plot to the Irish Judicial authorities, which I am now doing.

Mr Fitzgibbon was entitled to be hostile after finding out from me that his private consultation with his client had been surreptitiously recorded and supplied to me. With some justification, he claimed breach of confidentiality, client privilege and of Data Protection.

However, I am not an Irish citizen, neither do I reside within Irish jurisdiction. I have no obligation of confidentiality towards him or his client, who supplied the recording to me on an unsolicited basis.

I believe that the public interest should take first priority.

As can be deduced from the recording, it took a little while for Mr Fitzgibbon to recall details about events that took place a couple of years ago, but his recollection improved as the meeting progressed and his brave advice to OSSL is abundantly clear. That the settlement agreed at the third meeting attended by him was full and final and OSSL has no legal grounds to pursue Shell for further payment.

These matters are covered in some details in an article I published on 28 October “OSSL Blackmail Plot Against Shell?” containing extracts from the transcript.

Clare Daly TD wrote to Irish Shell Chairman/CEO/MD Michael Crothers and received a response from him in a letter dated 28 May 2013 in which he cited the above quoted “full and final settlement.” Mr Crothers was present at the mediation meeting.

This is the full extract.

To resolved the claim, there was a full and final settlement of contractual matters in 2012 and a Settlement Agreement was signed by OSSL in the presence of its legal advisers.

(The legal adviser being Mr Marc Fitzgibbon who was directly involved in the face-to-face negotiations with Crothers that led to the settlement.)

Mr Crothers went on in his letter to complain about the hundreds of emails from OSSL demanding more money from Shell.

On 10 June 2013, I sent an email to Mr Crothers asking a question about the content of his reply to Clare Daly. I quoted from an email he sent to OSSL on 22 May 2012 in which he failed to deny allegations made by OSSL about the alcohol, in an email they had sent to him 22 minutes earlier.

I took his lack of denial as important evidence that Mr Crothers knew full well that the allegations were true. Shell had ordered OSSL to procure and supply the alcohol to the Garda as a Christmas gift.

As a result of listening to the covert recording, it now appears that the alcohol may have been the basis for a long-running attempt by OSSL to extort money from Shell when Shell had already stumped up a very substantial sum to buy the silence of OSSL. The full and final settlement included a gagging clause.

Shell has had internal investigations in relation to OSSL allegations, but declined to let Mr Vulliamy see the assembled information. Shell refused to disclose any of the same material in response to a recent SAR request to the company from Desmond Kane of OSSL under the UK Data Protection Act. It did repeatedly cite his money demands and pointed out “SEPIL considers that the mediation settlement is a final closure of matters relating to the contract. Note that terms of the settlement are confidential”

Since three Irish police investigations have resulted in the same basic formula being presented… no evidence to support OSSL allegations (the same cover-up formula used by Shell), on reflection, there seems little point in another investigation by the Irish police. Under the circumstances, they cannot be considered as impartial or independent.

(I may notify the UK police and/or the Dutch police as the money demands have been sent to Shell in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands.)

As far as Ireland is concerned, my conclusion is that what is really required is a public inquiry to establish the truth.

Did OSSL supply alcohol to senior Gardai officers on behalf of Shell? If so, has OSSL subsequently used this fact in an attempt to blackmail Shell into paying again to buy its silence.

Mr Kane strongly denies being a blackmailer and claims that OSSL claims are entirely legitimate.

Why would Mr Kane and Mr Rooney invest so much time and effort into demanding payment for something that never existed? What would be the point?

I am in possession of further evidence that I am holding back for the right moment. It will be released by my solicitor, if for some reason, I am indisposed.

Shell, Statoil, Vermilion, the Gardai and the Irish Police Ombudsman Commission, all have good reason to be concerned about the scandal that will not go away.

If OSSL allegations are found to be true, then attention will be focused on other allegations made by OSSL in relation to the Corrib Gas project and its troubled history. Who better to dish the dirt than the Mr Fixit company, which, by its own admission, carried out “dirty work” for Shell paid for via a “slush fund”. Shell’s full and final settlement was made after the quoted description of OSSL’s work for Shell was put to SEPIL representatives by Mr Kane on 10 June 2010 in the Hilton Hotel in Dublin. This is all information taken verbatim from a Shell E&P Ireland document marked “Confidential” dated 3 October 2014.

What is the betting that Statoil and Vermilion are horrified by the SEPIL/OSSL affair?

I have supplied the full transcript of the covert recording and the associated audio file to the Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and I trust that action will be taken to investigate.

Kind regards
John Donovan


(pdf of Shell Press Statement)

Extract from Shell Press Statement shown on RTE News Report 21 Aug 2013

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 11.25.15

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