A PRIVATE intelligence firm with close links to MI6 spied on environmental campaign groups to collect information for oil companies, including Shell and BP.
MPs are to demand an inquiry by Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, into whether the secret intelligence service used the firm as a front to spy on green activists.
The firm's agent, who posed as a left-wing sympathizer and film maker, was asked to betray plans of Greenpeace's activities against oil giants.
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.
The Sunday Times has seen documents which show that the spy, German-born Manfred Schlickenrieder, was hired by Hakluyt, an agency that operates from offices in London's West End.
Schlickenrieder was known by the code name Camus and had worked for the German foreign intelligence service gathering information about terrorist groups, including the Red Army Faction.
He fronted a film production company called Gruppe 2, based in Munich, but he also worked in London and Zurich. His company was a one-man band with a video camera making rarely seen documentaries. He had been making an unfinished film about Italy's Red Brigade since 1985. Another of his alleged guises was as a civil servant of the Bavarian conservation agency in charge of listed buildings and monuments.
One of his assignments from Hakluyt was to gather information about the movements of the motor vessel Greenpeace in the north Atlantic. Greenpeace claims the scandal has echoes of the Rainbow Warrior affair, when its ship protesting against nuclear testing in the South Pacific was blown up by the French secret service in 1985. A Dutch photographer died in the explosion.
Both BP and Shell admit hiring Hakluyt, but say they were unaware of the tactics used. Shell said it had wanted to protect its employees against possible attack.
Schlickenrieder was hired by Mike Reynolds, a director of Hakluyt and MI6's former head of station in Germany. His cover was blown by a female colleague who had worked with him. Last night he refused to comment.
Reynolds and other MI6 executives left the intelligence service after the cold war ended to form Hakluyt in 1995. It was set up with the blessing of Sir David Spedding, the then chief of MI6, who died last week. Christopher James, the managing director, had been head of the MI6 section that liaised with British firms.
The firm, which takes its name from Richard Hakluyt, the Elizabethan geographer, assembled a foundation board of directors from the Establishment to oversee its activities, including Sir Fitzroy Maclean, Ian Fleming's model for James Bond. Baroness Smith, the widow of John Smith, the late Labour leader, was a director until the end of last year.
The company has close links to the oil industry through Sir Peter Cazalet, the former deputy chairman of BP, who helped to establish Hakluyt before he retired, last year, and Sir Peter Holmes, former chairman of Shell, who is president of its foundation.
MPs believe the affair poses serious questions about the blurring of the divisions between the secret service, a private intelligence company and the interests of big companies. Hakluyt refutes claims by some in the intelligence community that it was started by MI6 officers to carry out "deniable" operations.
Norman Baker, home affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, called on Straw to make a statement. "The fact that this organization [Hakluyt] is staffed by people with close ties to MI6 suggests this was semi-official," he said.
Rod Macrae, communications director of Greenpeace International, said: "We are aware of the budgets these big companies have at their disposal to get information. The use of a friendly film maker may sound bizarre but if you go back to when Rainbow Warrior was sunk, one of the French agents appeared in our New Zealand office as a volunteer."
Hakluyt was reluctant to discuss its activities. Michael Maclay, one of the agency's directors and a former special adviser to Douglas Hurd when he was Conservative foreign minister, said: "We don't ever talk about anything we do. We never go into any details of what we may or what we may not be doing."
How Agent Camus Sank Greenpeace Oil Protests
WITH his shoulder-length hair tumbling over the collar of a leather jacket and clutching a video camera, Manfred Schlickenrieder cut a familiar figure among left-wing political parties and environmental groups across Europe for almost 20 years.
Whenever there was a campaign being organized, he was there to make a "sympathetic" documentary.
His political credentials seemed impeccable: he had once been chairman of the Munich branch of the German Communist party and the bookshelves of his office held the works of Bertolt Brecht, the Marxist playwright and poet.
Behind the facade, however, Schlickenrieder was a spy working for both the German secret service and for Hakluyt, a private intelligence agency based in London's West End and set up by former officers of MI6, the secret intelligence service. His codename was Camus after Albert Camus, the existentialist author of L'Etranger.
Hakluyt paid him thousands of pounds to inform on the activities of Greenpeace, Anita Roddick's Body Shop and other environmental campaigners. The BND, the German equivalent of MI6, allegedly paid him ?3,125 a month living expenses.
The rewards of espionage brought him a spacious flat overlooking a park in Munich and a BMW Z3, the sports car driven by Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye.
The spying operation for Hakluyt began in April 1996, when Mike Reynolds, one of the agency's directors and a former MI6 head of station in Germany, was asked by Shell to find out who was orchestrating threats against its petrol forecourts across Europe.
The threats followed an outcry over the oil giant's attempts in 1995 to dump the disused Brent Spar oil platform at sea and allegations of environmental damage caused by its oil drilling in Ogoniland, Nigeria.
Schlickenrieder approached environmental groups and far-left organizations including Revolution?rer Aufbau, a Zurichbased communist group. He was finally betrayed to the group by a female colleague.
Last week Shell confirmed it was Hakluyt's client until December 1996. The company said that some of its petrol stations in Germany had been firebombed or shot at. "We did talk to Hakluyt about what intelligence they could gather," said Mike Hogan, director of media relations at Shell UK.
In May 1997, Reynolds asked the German spy for information on whether there were legal moves within Greenpeace to protect its assets against sequestration in the event of it being sued by an oil company. Two months later, Greenpeace occupied BP's Stena Dee oil installation off the Shetland islands in an unsuccessful publicity stunt to stop oil drilling in a new part of the Atlantic. Schlickenrieder sent a report saying that Greenpeace was disappointed with its campaign.
He sent an invoice to Hakluyt on June 6, 1997, billing the agency for DM20,000 (?6,250) for "Greenpeace research".
BP confirmed it had hired Hakluyt, but said it had asked the company to compile a report based only on published sources of information. BP has longstanding links with MI6. John Gerson, BP's director of government and public affairs, was at one time a leading candidate to succeed Sir David Spedding as head of MI6.
Schlickenrieder continued working for Hakluyt until 1999. 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, and asked about plans for further activities. Greenpeace said yesterday that Schlickenrieder's activities had effectively sunk its campaign against BP's oil exploration in the Atlantic.
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 to focus on the climate change issue and the responsibility of BP. BP knew everything. They were not taken by surprise." He added: "Manfred filmed and interviewed all the time, but now we realize we never saw anything."
Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.