8 years ago73 views
A Chinese court has sentenced four Rio Tinto employees to seven to 14 years in jail for taking bribes and stealing commercial secrets.
The Shanghai Intermediate People's Court said China-born Australian citizen Stern Hu, who headed Rio Tinto's iron ore operations in China, will serve ten years, with parts of a 7-year bribery term and a 5-year secrets sentence running concurrently. He will also be fined 500,000 yuan ($73,250), and have 500,000 yuan worth of assets confiscated.
Three other executives, all Chinese nationals employed by the Australian miner, were sentenced to between seven and 14 years on bribery and secrets charges.
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, said the sentences were tough "by any measure" and that he had serious unanswered questions about parts of the trial.
All four Rio employees pleaded guilty to receiving kickbacks but contested the amounts. Only one of the four, Liu Caikui, pleaded guilty to infringing commercial secrets in a portion of the trial closed to Australian diplomats.
The verdict may raise questions about Rio's business practises, although the company says an audit cleared it of wrongdoing. Chinese firms have not emerged with their reputation unscathed however, with the court saying the list of companies that handed over bribes included the trading arm of Sinochem Corp and private Rongcheng Steel.
Much of the foreign interest in the case stems from the commercial secrets portion of the charges, because government information controls add a layer of uncertainty and risk to operating in China.
Rio shares were barely affected by the sentencing.