Mid May Buro Jansen & Janssen was approached by people from A SEED Europe who had serious doubts about the reliability of a French activist, Adrian Franks from Equihen-Plage. An anonymous letter with severe accusations was reason enough to start an investigation. He was said to be selling information about activist groups to multinational cooperations. Account of a search.
Buro Jansen & Janssen is specialized in monitoring police en secret services.
“Until recently I was working as an assistant to the head of security for a multinational oil corporation. During this time my boss was approached by a person who offered to sell him information about ‘extremist groups that were planning to attack the company.”
So began a hand-written anonymous letter undersigned by a woman. The letter, addressed to the enviroment action network, A SEED Europe, was sent early May. “He said that senior staff and their families were in danger from these people and that they were violent and very dangerous.”
“He said that he worked as a free-lance security consultant and acted as an adviser to a number of multinational corporations i.e. British Aerospace, Rio Tinto and a defence company in France. His name was Adrian Mayer and on his business card the address was 95 Rue de la Marine, 62224 Equihen-Plage.”
In the A SEED office, alarm bells sounded. One of their contacts in France was someone with the same first name, living at the same address. Only they were familiar with him under the name Adrian Franks.
“He left a lot of documents with us”,
continued the letter, “specifically internal documents from A SEED, a lot about groups called Oil Watch, documents from Earth First, explaining all about their anti-oil campaigns. There was also documents from something called ‘Corporate Watcher’.”
This must be ‘Corporate Watch’, a British activist group campaigning against multinationals. Just a small error like this makes the letter look authentic. Adrian Franks recently visited the A SEED office in Amsterdam and spent a whole afternoon copying documents of the organisation.
“He said that his agents went to all of the meetings organised by what he called extremist protester groups, to prove this he showed a report that had been written on a conference in Geneva. There were also documents on ‘Hot Springs’ and Peoples Global Action.”
This conference in Geneva was the Corporate Roundtable, a gathering of action groups prior to the People’s Global Action week, February this year. A SEED wrote a critical evaluation of this meeting – most probably the only report on the Corporate Roundtable – and Adrian copied it during his visit.
“In addition to information about protests, he also said he had a database of tens of thousands of troublemakers and that he could check out potential employees for companies. His normal rate that he charged was US$ 5000 per month.”
The first question was how to take the letter. Anybody can write an anonymous letter of denunciation. But this woman had no personal grudge against Mr. Mayer. In the future you should be more careful about who you confide in, she writes. “One of the reasons I left my position was because the company’s security staff were prepared to secretly use any means, including the illegal, to obtain information about enemies they imagined to have. I have a sense of honesty and fairplay and feel that unless someone exposes these activities they will get out of hand.”
Already before the first meeting with buro Jansen & Janssen people of A SEED develop a plan to trap Adrian. They organise a call from the US to the telephone number Adrian gives to activist circles. This person asks for Adrian Mayer, gets him on the phone and checks again if he is really speaking to Adrian Mayer. The answer is yes. Adrian is not surprised by the request for information about activists for a big European firm, nor does he decline on principle. He says: “I can’t open my address book just like that, I need to check you first.” But because the caller is unable to give a fax or post box number to send any information, the conversation ends.
This endeavour is premature. Adrian becomes alarmed – he distributes email warnings that he has received a strange phone call to groups he works with – making further steps in this direction more complicated.
Nevertheless, Adrian’s reaction is another reason to take the letter seriously. It could have been sent with malicious intent by someone who did not like Adrian, or to create confusion in the groups he is active in. But after careful consideration, this is not very likely. Too many details in the letter match up; moreover, his role in the action movement is not significant enough to warrant such a step. So too, the possibility of his infiltrating comapnies with noble intentions is ruled out; there has been no evidence of any results for the movement, only, it seems, a lot of money for him at the expense of the people he has sold. The line that human lives are threatened by the groups he is selling out is utter nonsense, but dangerous nonsense.
What is true about the anonymous letter? It is not enough that Adrian responds to the name Mayer and is prepared to deliver names of action groups. Who is he working for, that’s the big question.
Besides A SEED, Adrian is also known to AMOK-Maritiem in the Netherlands. Since November 1996, he has been a member of the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT). From Beauvais, earlier that year, he writes a letter of introduction to AMOK: “We are a reborn group which want to contact people who share the ideas of Earth First! across Europe.” He mentions the issues that will remain his topics: the criminal aspects of arms trade and banking loans which make them possible. Adrian has gotten AMOK’s address from Agir Ici, a large French organisation. He wants to be on the mailing list and kept updated. In November 1996, ENAAT discusses plans to organise an action at the big international arms fair Eurosatory in Paris in June 1998. Adrian is “the” person: someone with contacts in the French action movement and who speaks excellent English. He is assigned the task of involving the big, more moderate French organisations in the Eurosatory campaign. The leaflet he produces is too radical, even after repeated editorial interventions from Amsterdam; it is full of empty words and global conspiracy theories. Thereby, he completely frustrates efforts to involve Agir Ici and Amnesty International – who have just started a campaign against electronic shock buttons and who could well have become partners. From then on, Adrian is increasingly sidelined.
It does not surprise the people at AMOK-Maritiem that suspicions about Adrian surface. In fact, they did not like him from the beginning, his dominant behaviour during meetings and the rather undifferentiated opinions on the interdynamics of the arms trade-banking-oil trade brought up again and again. He also strongly criticised the campaign against arms trade to Indonesia, the only common ENAAT campaign in recent years. A troublemaker not well liked by other partners in the Network. A member of the International Peace Bureau asked AMOK what kind of person he was, while an activist from Bangkok, with a different culture and background, politely asked after Adrian’s legitimacy.
Only now it is becoming clear that a number of people are very uneasy about Adrian. He is always complaing about the vegetarian food served at meetings, and prefers to buy his own food… He calls himself a radical animal liberation activist, but eats meat – a deadly sin in these circles.
Obviously, however, there has not been enough distrust to investigate him. Now that there is a concrete reason it becomes clear nobody knows about his background in any great detail. He was active in the Animal Liberation Front, but opinions differ if this was in England or France. Or was it his wife wich was jailed for Animal Liberation Front actions? Is this his current wife, or the mother of his children, who still pays money for their care. People who know him from meetings all have different pieces of information. He has two children – or four, one of them in institutionalised care due to a severe handicap. Is he earning his money as a freelance physiotherapist or as chiropidist without his own practice? In any case, he can’t have much time given his busy action agenda. At the same time, he has enough money to travel regularly abroad by plane and to come to meetings by car.
Adrian’s organisation is called Eco-action; he calls himself “the” contact person for Earth First! France. It is easy to do so. Earth First! is not an organisation with offices and paid staff, but a network of autonomous local groups with their own campaigns. A slogan and a radical action philosophy is all that unites the different groups in this popular and growing movement. Since 1991, 60 groups have come into being in the UK, many of them active in the anti-roads movement. Earth First! France is almost non-existent, but this is not known by the British groups. Just like the Animal Liberation Front, Earth First! is a first class admission card to the action movement. They are popular and nobody asks questions because of the secret and autonomous nature of their actions.
A quick search on the Internet shows that Adrian’s address is on virtually all international Earth First! contact diaries as contact person in France. His group is also mentioned in the Internet Peace Agenda and the ENAAT-campaign against the Eurosatory arms fair in Paris. Finally, Eco-Action in Equihen-Plage is contact point for the Hot Spring campaign, a network of actions and initiatives against economic Globalisation. He can be found in several related directories.
Looking through the incoming mail at A SEED and AMOK you can trace the adresses the group used since 1996. Laval, followed by two addresses in Beauvais and then, since September last year, Equihen-Plage, a village on the coast near Boulogne. He is registered in the French phone directory under the name Franks.
His email address – firstname.lastname@example.org – itemises the names of his action groups and alliances (mala stands for a French initiative against the misuse of animals). His email account is registered at the French Telecom Internet Provider (Wanadoo) under the name Adrian Le Chene, in Beauvais. He used this name in mail to AMOK, and then claimed that this was ‘a mistake of the French Telecom’. Earlier he had given no surname at all; later he called himself Adrian Franks.
Research done in France showed why it was so crucial that the name Le Chene be kept secret. It is under this name that Adrian’s company, “Risk Crisis Analysis” is registered. It was founded in Beauvais and currently based in Equihen-Plage. ‘Secretariat and translations’ is all that is mentioned as activities, there are no employees and the company has a mobile phone – with a secret number. According to the register of the French Office for Statistics (INSEE) the founding date or registration of Risk Crisis Analyses is February 1 1997, shortly after Adrian became involved in the Eurosatory campaign. Since the mother company of Risk Crisis Analysis is based in Rochester, UK, there is no registration information about the branch office in Equihen-Plage at the Chamber of Commerce in France. In England, Risk Crisis Analysis also has a secret phone number. It has proved difficlut so far to trace an address at the Chamber of Commerce.
Time is running out, it is the end of May. The collected information is enough to cancel cooperation with Adrian. But we want the whole story. We want to know for whom he is working and which companies are using these kind of people. That can only be provided by Adrian himself.
An opportunity to get to know more about him comes unexpectedly. A SEED Europe has invited people within the network to apply for the A SEED Council. Adrian applies by email. While it is not standard practice, A SEED asks for details on the background and the motivation of the applicants.
Adrian’s answer does not add much to what we already know. An incoherent story about his motivation, pinpointing Eurosatory as a cornerstone in his action career, to show his competence in bringing together radical and moderate groups.
“Many years ago I came into ‘alternative E.F! view’ when I felt I had to do something radical for animal welfare and to denounce the abuses made by the state waste spending system when homes for psycho-motor handicapped people were -and still are- grossly understaffed and undersubsudised.”
Time to go to Equihen-Plage. The story goes like this. Adrian has shown a great deal of interest in OilWatch in recent months. OilWatch Europe is a network whose coordination is based in the A SEED office; its focuses the activities of oil companies. OilWatch contacts Adrian about the establishment of an underground network wich is planning actions against Shell in Nigeria. This Network is very secret so it is not possible to talk on the phone or by email about it. Adrian is hooked.
The visit confirms our impressions, but does not bring concrete evidence. He has a small office, set up in the back of a garage of a huge detached house in a small street in Equihen-Plage, with a view of the sea. There are three tables with expensive computers and a printer, obviously bought recently, because the old harware is still there. A book-case with folders, with the names of action groups: EF!, ENAAT, Greenpeace, A SEED etc. There is a ‘Hot Spring’ poster on the wall.
The conversation proceeds very slowly, Adrian seems on his guard. His answers are short, sometimes he’s talks rubbish. He says he’s sorry never to have been to countries like Nigeria and Colombia. Have you been elsewhere? In North Africa. For what reason? In the framework of the animal right struggle. The astonishment of his visitors make him nervous. He says to his girlfriend, in French: ‘I have a hole in my memory’ and tries to evade the question by saying it was to compare circumstances.
Adrian explains the animal rights movement in France is not that big, and for that reason his group is active abroad, in the UK. The activities concerning arms trade and oil companies also happen mainly on the other side of the Channel. He claims to be involved in the Crude Oil Campaign of Corporate Watch. The underground network-to-be has captured his interest, but he does not question the aims of the campaign, the political targets or the means to be used. He proposes other people to contact, but never switches on the computer to look up their addresses. He will mail them later.
The conversation remains very business-like, without any personal commitment – he is clearly relieved it was finished.
Back home the clues are piling up.
AMOK receives a fax from Adrian evaluating the three days of campaining at EuroSatory in early June. He apologises for only having been present for one of the three days, and for not having done a lot during the final weeks of preparation. This contradicts his claims to A SEED and Oil Watch earlier that week. The reason nobody else from his group turned up, he claims, was involvement in preparations of a big animal rights event in the UK. He promises more reliable cooperation in the future.
Next another letter about Adrian arrives, addressed to Action Update, the Earth First! Newsletter. A French student spending a year in the UK claims to know Adrian through her involvement in the peace and environmental groups in France. All she ever heard was that he was active mainly in the UK. Yet when she came to Britain, she heard quite the contrairy. “This person said to my collegues in France that he was very prominent in Corporate Watch and asked that if they had any information on companies that they should give it to him and he would give it on to Corporate Watch and others. In know that many of them have done but am now beginning to be curious how much of this information he has passed on to you.” Nobody in France has ever heard of Eco-action of Earth First! France, and she doubts if these organisations really exist. “He says that he is committed to direct action but nobody has ever known him risk being arrested even though he is always very interested to know the ‘secret’ plans against companies.”
Wednesday July 1st we have had a long conversation with Adrian. He came to Amsterdam to attend the first gathering of the so-called secret network. Before the meeting could start, some things had to be cleared up. Adrian was confronted with all the allegations made
against him, one by one. He understood he was not going to leave before some explaining had been done. So he started talking. He never stopped talking. But his stories were incoherent and evasive. He had an answer to almost anything, but it didn’t explain a lot. We still have to analyse the conversation in detail, but a view things are clear now.
The actiongroup Eco-action does not exist, neither does Earth First! France in Equihen-Plage. Adrian could not name a single action done by his own group. Eventually he came up with some names of collegues, but these were basically people he knew, not members of his group. Adrian attends a lot of meetings, manifestations and demonstrations, but he’s not doing anything with this – that’s what he claims.
Adrian says that officially he has two surnames, in his passport it says Franks, but he’d rather use Le Chene. The name Mayer aroused aggression everytime we mentioned it. These were the only moments in the conversation he began to shout. Unfortunately we were not able to confront him with the business card.
He had nothing sensible to say about his company, and it’s name Risk Crisis Analysis. He didn’t deny it being his company, but to what purpose he has it remained unclear.
This conversation has not managed to convince us that Adrian is a reliable and innocent activist. He’s not OK. There’s no hard proof, but a lot of circumstancial evidence piling up way too high. The last piece of the puzzle is missing, but we get most of the picture.
We’re not done yet. In the UK a lot remains to be researched, about the company and about the groups he has been joining. So anybody who could tell us anything about Adrian Le Chene or Adrian Franks or Adrian Mayer be so kind to send it to buro Jansen & Janssen.
buro Jansen & Janssen
1001 EN Amsterdam