Shell Smart

CHAPTER 5: Shell corporate espionage in the run-up to the Smart trial

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This page last updated 26 August 2021.

Titled Shell directors, the late Sir Peter Holmes, and Sir William Purves were also directors, major shareholders and the spymasters of Hakluyt & Company, a UK corporate espionage firm founded by former senior MI6 officers. Shell used Hakluyt to engage in cloak and dagger operations against its perceived enemies, including Greenpeace, as exposed in a Sunday Times front-page lead article “MI6 ‘firm’ spied on green groups.” It led to a follow-on inside page headlined “How agent Camus sunk Greenpeace oil protests”. 

When Shell first instigated a cloak and dagger operation against us, we had no knowledge of the oil giants long-time involvement in the dark arts.

I first mentioned the subject of investigative activity in a letter dated 15 June 1998 that I sent to Dr Chris Fay, the then Chairman & Chief Executive of Shell UK Limited. It was also copied to Shell lawyers.

From paragraph 4 of page 3:

“Shell did retain an investigative specialist in connection with the previous litigation. They made investigations about me going back over a decade.” read more and its sister websites,,,,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article:

HIGH COURT TRIAL INDEX PAGE: John Alfred Donovan v. Shell UK Ltd

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Copy of archival information

HIGH COURT TRIAL JUNE/JULY 1999 Case No: DD04199 Court 58

John Alfred Donovan v. Shell UK Ltd



(Modified 23 April 2018 when all references to relevant Shell executive changed to “AJL”)

Further modified 21 Oct 2020 with the green text added immediately below and further references to the same Shell executive spotted and changed to AJL)

The judge himself admitted in open court that he had lost control of the trial. The following is an extract from a transcribed comment he made to Shell’s barrister Mr Geoffrey Hoobs QC on Tuesday 29 June 1999:

MR HOBBSYour Lordship said was there any other matter. I do not know whether your Lordship wishes to know about the open correspondence that has passed between the parties.

MR JUSTICE LADDIE: Mr Hobbs, it may come as a surprise to you but I am not running this case. That is very apparent. If you wish to make any submissions to me or bring anything to my attention that is a matter for your choice. I have decided there is no point in me making further enquiries of my own volition.  read more and its sister websites,,,,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article: