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Emails exchanged between senior Shell staff including John Copleston and Guy Colegate show they knew a massive payment would go to convicted money launderer and former oil minister Dan Etete.


By John Donovan

During a wiretapped telephone conversation held on 17 February 2016 between Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden and Simon Henry, his then CFO, BvB made reference to what he described as “really unhelpful emails” relating to the Shell/Eni Nigerian corruption scandal.

The call took place hours after Shell’s HQ building in The Hague was raided by authorities investigating the OPL 245 Nigerian oil deal. Two middle men have already been found guilty of involvement in the $1.3 billion corruption scandal.

During the telephone call, which was covertly recorded by investigative authorities, BvB mentioned former “MI6 people” hired by Shell who played key roles in the oil deal. This was a reference to Guy Colgate and John Copleston, both defendants in the OPL 245 criminal trial underway in Italy. Other defendants include companies within the Royal Dutch Shell Group and former Shell executives Malcolm Brinded and Peter Robinson.

Listen to the Audio or read the transcript. 

There is no question that Shell and the Shell employees involved knew that they were involved in a corrupt deal. The issue at stake in the Italian court case is whether the defendants conduct was criminal.

Their actions in the conspiracy were undoubtedly in breach of Shell’s claimed ethical code. The business principle aspect also applies to other participants in the relevant Shell internal email correspondence, including Simon Henry, Keith Ruddock, Ann Pickard, Guss Klusener, Basil Omiyi, Mutiu Sunmonu, Guy Outen, Ian Craig, Maarten Wetselaar, Thijs Jurgens, Beat Hess, and the redacted names. It is clear from the now notorious  “unhelpful emails” emails that top people at Shell were aware of the “risks” and the “business principles issues involved.” See Malcom Brinded email on 22 March 2010 15.50. 


“Apparently there are some really unhelpful emails in there”… said BvB. Particularly from “the people we hired from MI6 who must have said things like ‘I wonder who gets a payoff here and whatever.’”

At the time, another former MI6 man, Ian Forbes McCredie, was head of Shell Global Security. He also had an email address at *Hakluyt & Company, the commercial offshoot of MI6. Shell is a long-time client.

So there were at least three former “MI6” people hired by Shell to exploit their expertise in the dark arts on behalf of Shell. I am not aware of any evidence of any involvement by Mr McCredie in OPL 245, though I would be surprised if he was kept in the dark. Was his one of the redacted names?

Emails exchanged between senior Shell staff including John Copleston and Guy Colegate show they knew a massive payment would go to convicted money launderer and former oil minister Dan Etete.

The above is an excerpt from an intercepted email from Shell’s Guy J. Colegate to Guy Outen, Shell’s Executive Vice President Commercial, New Business & LNG detailing their intent to offer money launderer Dan Etete $1.2 billion.

In January 2009 Copleston wrote to two of Shell’s most senior Africa executives, relaying a conversation with “my Delta man”, whom he did not identify further: “He spoke to Mrs E this morning. She says E claims he will only get 300m we offering—rest goes in paying people off.”“E” is understood to be Etete.

If he does turn his nose up at nearly $1.2 bill he is completely certifiable In October 2009 Copleston and Shell’s Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa Peter Robinson met with Etete: “We are getting along very well personally – lunch and lots of iced champagne,” Copleston wrote.

In March 2010 Peter Voser, Shell’s CEO at the time, was told of Etete’s involvement.

“Etete can smell the money,” Colegate, Copleston’s colleague on the ground, wrote in an email forwarded to Voser.“If at nearly 70 years old he does turn his nose up at nearly $1.2 bill he is completely certifiable,” Colegate wrote in the email, referring to Etete. But I think he knows it’s his for the taking.

Voser was also kept abreast of negotiations on the ground by Brinded, the exploration and production chief. Sending a briefing on a draft deal for OPL 245, Brinded told Voser in an email in March 2010 that “your formal endorsement is appropriate given the history and the political/ business principles issues involved.”

Shell has confirmed that in various countries are investigating its investment in Nigerian Oil Block OPL 245.

Shell Legal Director Donny Ching recently asked all Shell employees not to discuss the OPL 245 scandal with their colleagues.

Despite his chequered past and current situation, Brinded remains President of the Energy Institute.

Fixer, Guy Colegate, previously handled blackmail demands in Nigeria on behalf of Shell, in his then capacity as Shell crisis team leader in Warri. After departing Shell, he was recruited by the Heritage Oil outfit run by the colourful characterTony Buckingham who has Nigerian oil dealings with Shell.

In a further twist, Royal Dutch Shell has filed a criminal complaint against Peter Robinson over suspicions he may have received bribes in Nigeria over the sale of the OML 42 block to Neconde Energy in 2011.

Shell is the common factor in three multi-million dollar Nigerian oil deals now attracting attention. Namely, the notorious OPL 245 (involving ENI), OML 42 (which Shell sold to Neconde) and OML 30 (which Heritage Oil purchased from Shell). 

Some of the above information is extracted from already published articles.

*Titled senior Shell directors were the ultimate spymasters at Hakluyt. Sir William Purves was Chairman of Hakluyt & Company Limited. Sir Peter Holmes (now deceased), a retired Royal Dutch Shell Group Chairman, was President of the Hakluyt Foundation, supposedly serving an oversight function of Hakluyt operations. Both were directors and major shareholders in Hakluyt & Company Limited. During this period Hakluyt undertook undercover missions on an international basis against Shell’s perceived enemies, including Greenpeace and associates of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Hakluyt unconvincingly denied that my late father and me were also targets. Shell admitted undercover activity against my family and our company Don Marketing, but has never revealed the identity of the spy firm Shell hired for the purpose. I knew from the outset that it would be an uphill struggle to sue Shell, a multinational with unlimited financial resources. I had no idea that we were also taking on sinister hired spooks.

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