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Shell’s Secret Spy Saga: Like a Bad Spy Movie, But With More Oil and Less Charm

Posted 22 December 2023

Oh, the irony! Shell, the ever-so-discreet and not-at-all-nefarious oil giant has been doing its darnedest to keep a lid on some rather unflattering information. But, like a leaky old barrel of their finest crude, the details just keep seeping out, much to their chagrin and our amusement.

Enter the protagonist of our story, John Donovan, and his website – Shell’s least favorite bookmark. Despite Shell’s best efforts, Donovan has been quite the busy bee, collecting a swarm of Shell-related secrets. The list of names he’s disclosed reads like a who’s who of corporate espionage, featuring the likes of James J.D. Hall (Shell’s very own top spy), Crockett Oaks III, Mike Oliveri, and Walied Shater. It’s like a spy convention, but with fewer martinis.

The plot thickens with three of these gentlemen – Oaks, Oliveri, and Shater –  taking legal action against Shell. One can only imagine the popcorn-worthy drama that led to this twist.

Another name which cropped up in the Shell internal emails was that of a retired senior FBI official, Mr Richard T. Garcia, Global Security Manager, Corporate Affairs Security (CAS) Shell Oil Company.

Now, let’s delve into the backstory, where our hero, Donovan, has been a thorn in Shell’s side for over three decades. The spying began in 1998 when a Shell agent was caught snooping around his office premises. The then Shell Legal Director, presumably with a red face, had to admit in writing to the company’s connection with the agent. Oops!

But wait, there’s more! Shell, in a move straight out of a spy thriller, set up a team of internal and external spooks to combat Donovan’s lawful activities. We’re talking former MI6 officers, U.S. Secret Service agents, military intelligence, Senior Police officers, FBI agents… the whole gang. It’s like Shell’s own little secret service, but with a focus on oil instead of national security.

Plot twist! Several of Shell’s senior spies, in a delightful turn of events, ended up being sources for Donovan. Talk about an own goal, Shell! One such spy-turned-ally is Gene Sticco, a former U.S. Navy intelligence specialist who found Donovan’s quest more honourable than Shell’s ethics. Then there’s Mr. Donald G. Lane, a former U.S. Secret Service Agent, who expressed his admiration for Donovan’s work in an email, stating, “I applaud your quest to hold Shell accountable for their actions.”

But wait, there’s even more intrigue! Shell was also entangled with Hakluyt, a corporate intelligence firm set up by former MI6 officers, with ties to Shell directors. Donovan’s interactions with them were, in his words, “bizarre and astonishing.” He sent a related letter to Queen Elizabeth 11 and received a reply on her behalf. Now that’s a plot twist worthy of a James Bond film. Hakluyt was caught spying on Greenpeace on behalf of Shell.

So, there you have it, folks. Shell’s saga of secrecy and spies, more tangled than a bowl of spaghetti and just as messy. Shell, of course, is welcome to correct any inaccuracies in this tale of espionage, environmental misadventures, and ethical acrobatics. But let’s be honest, wouldn’t it be more fun if they didn’t?

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

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