Rio staff admit bribes in China trial

March 24, 2010, Wednesday/ 16:32:00/ REUTERS
Four Rio Tinto executives faced charges in China on Tuesday of stealing commercial secrets after admitting to taking bribes, in a trial that has underscored the Chinese steel industry’s growing need for iron ore.

Lawyers said Australian Stern Hu, head of the China iron ore business, and three Chinese employees of giant miner Rio Tinto could face jail terms of more than five years on the bribery charges. Hu, his subordinates Liu Caikui and Ge Minqiang, and iron ore salesman Wang Yong were detained last July during sensitive annual price negotiations over iron ore, the main raw material for steel. China boasts the world’s largest steel industry and is consequently the top iron ore consumer, as well as Australia’s biggest trading partner. The four Rio executives pleaded guilty on Monday, the first day of the trial in Shanghai, to charges of taking bribes. However, their lawyers said the amounts taken were far lower than the sums prosecutors allege the four accepted from smaller steel mills and trading companies.

“The company did not know about the bribes,” Zhai Jian, who is representing Ge Minqiang, said by phone.

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