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Chilling similarities between the OPL 245 and Ogoni 9 litigation

Esther Kiobel and John Donovan, 28 April 2019, days before a Dutch court ruled in favour of Esther and her co-plaintiffs in an action against Shell allowing their case to proceed

By John Donovan

In 1996, Shell used the sinister specialist services of what could be described as an in-house spying resource set up by former MI6 officers, Hakluyt & Company Limited with titled Shell directors acting as the ultimate spymasters.

At that time, Sir William Purves was Chairman of Hakluyt & Company Limited and Sir Peter Holmes, a former Chairman of Shell, was President of the Hakluyt Foundation. Both were also major shareholders in the corporate spy outfit, while also being Shell directors.

Hakluyt was allegedly set up to carry out “deniable” corporate espionage operations.

A German-born secret service agent Manfred Schlickenrieder working undercover for Hakluyt was sent to Nigeria on a mission relating to allegations of environmental damage caused by Shell’s oil drilling in Ogoniland.

Extracts from a related front-page article published by The Sunday Times in 2001 under the headline MI6 ‘Firm’ Spied on Green Groups:

Schlickenrieder sometimes posed as a left-wing sympathizer and documentary filmmaker.

He also tried to dupe Anita Roddick’s Body Shop group to pass on information about its opposition to Shell drilling for oil in a Nigerian tribal land.

His company was a one-man band with a video camera making rarely seen documentaries.

He made a film on Shell in Nigeria called Business as Usual: the Arrogance of Power, during which he interviewed friends of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nobel prize nominee, who was hanged by the military regime in 1995 after leading a campaign against oil exploration. Schlickenrieder sent a letter to a Body Shop executive saying he had been researching the activities of Shell in Nigeria…

Fouad Hamdan, communications director of Greenpeace Germany, said: “The bastard was good, I have to admit. “He got information about our planned Atlantic Frontier campaign…”  He added: “Manfred filmed and interviewed all the time…”

The Sunday Times article is short on dates and information about what Shell’s undercover agent was up to in Nigeria, but it was at a time when litigation was being contemplated against Shell by relatives of Ken Saro Wiwi and Ogoni Nine widows.

Perhaps information about the purpose and timing of his spying mission in Nigeria will be contained in the confidential Shell internal documents the Dutch Court has ordered to be handed over to Esther Kiobel and her co-plaintiffs. Sight of his briefing by Shell/Hakluyt could be very revealing.

Part of the Kiobel & Co Dutch case against Shell relates to alleged Shell bribing of witnesses in the Ogoni Nine trial, which ended with the hanging of all nine individuals, including Ken Saro-Wiwi and the beloved husband of Esther Kiobel, Dr Barinem Kiobel.

Salient extracts from the Wikipedia article “Ogoni Nine”

The executions provoked international condemnation and led to the increasing treatment of Nigeria as a pariah state

At least two witnesses who testified that Saro-Wiwa was involved in the murders of the Ogoni elders later recanted, stating that they had been bribed with money and offers of jobs with Shell to give false testimony – in the presence of Shell’s lawyer.

Shell’s close association with former MI6 people has continued through the years. They always seem to be lurking in the shadows.

I am in possession of irrefutable evidence that an ex MI6 man Ian Forbes McCredie,  hired by Shell to be head of Shell Global Security, was also part of Hakluyt & Company.

More recently, Ben van Beurden, the current Chief Executive of Royal Dutch Shell Plc mentioned in a telephone conversation that Shell had hired former MI6 people in connection with the OPL 245 oil deal. He did not know that the conversation was being covertly recorded by OPL 245 investigative authorities.

Two of the defendants in the current OPL 245 criminal $1.3bn  corruption trial against Shell in Italy are indeed former MI6 agents; namely John Copleston and Guy Colegate.

Would someone kindly explain how any of this sinister and unscrupulous activity is compatible with Shell’s claimed core business principles, including honesty, integrity and transparency?


Disclosure by the author of this article: The lead claimant Esther Kiobel, her lawyer Channa Samkalden of the Dutch human rights law firm Prakken d’Oliveira representing the widows, and the acclaimed human rights organisation Amnesty International, have all acknowledged the involvement of John Donovan in bringing *this case. (*See Writ of Summons in English and Dutch served on Shell 28 June 2017 – copy obtained from US Pacer public electronic court records) As Esther generously said on 28 April 2019, the Dutch case would not have happened without the help of John Donovan. 

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

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