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Keith Ruddock and the OPL 245 scandal

A few days ago, more than $43m (£34m) in cash (above) – proceeds of unidentified unlawful activity – was seized by the Nigerian anti-corruption authorities from a flat in Nigeria’s main city, Lagos. Is the find connected to OPL 245?

By John Donovan

The name of former Shell General Counsel Keith Ruddock (right) has popped up in leaked Shell internal emails relating to the OPL 245 corruption scandal. 

I note in this regard a comment by Mr Ruddock in an interview by GC Magazine:

Particularly as I became more senior at Shell, a great deal of my role was around reputational management. Most companies can afford to take a lot of financial exposure, but what can really cripple them is a major reputational issue. 

For reasons I will explain, the emergence of his name is an attention grabber from my perspective because I associate Keith Ruddock with Malcolm Brinded and Shell intrigue relating to murky subjects stretching back nearly two decades, as listed below. 

  • A so-called Peace Treaty in 1999 supposedly ending the Shell/Donovan litigation saga involving six High Court actions and undercover activity admitted by Shell. As you can tell, the treaty approved personally by Sir Mark Moody-Stuart did not hold. Keith Ruddock represented Shell at the signing ceremony. During the litigation, Brinded had backed a Shell executive who masterminded a corrupt tender process for a major Shell contract.
  • Corruption and other very serious allegations surrounding the Sakhalin 2 project in 2007. It ended with Shell losing its controlling share after I supplied leaked Shell internal emails to the then Russian environment minister, Oleg Mitvol. Shell tried to kill related news stories involving the FT and The Sunday Times.
  • David Greer, the Deputy Chairman of Sakhalin Energy resigned in disgrace after I supplied leaked Shell internal emails to the FT which ended up as their lead front page story. For the purposes of a Shell motivational memo, Greer had plagiarised a speech made by General Patton on the eve of the D-Day landings.
  • Closing down our website. I cornered Keith Ruddock in June 2007 into confirming that Shell was the anonymous party responsible for frightening our then North American website hosting companies into closing day this website. It proved to be brief. The confirmation came during our correspondence with Mr. Ruddock in regards to corruption allegations against Ian Craig, the then CEO of Sakhalin Energy.
  • Ruddock made an attempt to sever our contact with Bill Campbell, the former HSE Group Auditor of Shell International. He contacted Mr Campbell’s solicitors with that objective in mind. He was desperately concerned that we might provide a whistleblowers platform to Mr Campbell who was making very serious allegations against Malcolm Brinded, relating to avoidable deaths of Shell workers on the Brent Bravo North Sea Platform and an associated cover-up which the then Chairman of Shell accepted had taken place. 
  • A dispute over a Shell CEO Letter of Censure issued to Malcolm Brinded. Ruddock subsequently represented Shell in a dispute about whether the then CEO of Shell Jeroen van der Veer had issued a letter of reprimand to Branded in relation to the Brent Bravo scandal. The letter was issued after Bill Campbell met personally with Mr Van der Veer.

None of this means that Keith Ruddock, who is a pleasant man to deal with, is complicit in any wrongdoing in relation to the OPL 245 deal (or any other matter). Only that to me, he seemed to be constantly in the thick of Shell intrigue.

The plea Mr Ruddock made to Bill Campbell’s lawyers was unsuccessful. Bill and I jointly engaged in a long campaign drawing public attention to Shell’s dreadful HSE track record. We recruited cross-party support from MP’s and managed to generate several articles published in the national press e.g. Daily Mail: “Shell on back foot as ‘gripe site’ alleges safety concerns


Extracts from an article published by BUZZFEEDNEWS:

Even at the time, Shell’s senior figures were also aware of the public scrutiny and concern around any deal involving Etete. As Shell negotiated with Etete, Keith Ruddock, one of its general counsels, had been attending a meeting of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative – a global standard to promote the open and accountable management of oil gas and mineral resources that Shell subscribes to – and was asked about Etete.

“I was buttonholed on this by a number of Revenue Transparency related NGOs,” he said. “They had read about a possible transaction in the press and were keen to be reassured that Chief E. would not benefit from this deal. I was noncommittal on whether any deal was in prospect but indicated that Shell was indeed aware of Chief E’s history and would conduct its activities accordingly.”

Extracts end.

Related email

In a subsequent note, Keith Ruddock commented: “they were clearly unaware of the details of this proposed transaction (at least I hope so) but it is an indication of how closely this deal will be scrutinised”.

Mr Rudduck was right about the scrutiny, though it has taken several years for the truth to begin to emerge.



Some emails involving Mr Ruddock and various sensitive subjects, including corruption.

25 June 2007. Alleged Corruption. 

9 July 2007. Alleged Corruption. 

Email from Alfred Donovan to Keith Ruddock Shell: 12 September 2007 01.30

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