Chinese court hands 14 year jail term to Rio Tinto employees

A Chinese court today sentenced four employees of Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto to jail terms of 7 to 14 years on charges of bribery and stealing commercial secrets charges, including 10 years for Stern Hu, the lead negotiator of the miner in the iron ore benchmark talks.

In a three-day trial held last week, the four employees of Rio Tinto had pleaded guilty of accepting bribes from Chinese steel mills, but had refuted the amounts taken as alleged by the state prosecutor.

But three of the employees pleaded not guilty to the charge of stealing commercial secrets, while Wang Yong, one of Rio's Chinese employees pleaded guilty to the charge.

Rio's enior most executive in China, Stern Hu, an Australian citizen of Chinese origin, was sentenced to seven years on charges of bribery and five years for stealing commercial secrets, but will serve 10 years. He was also fined 1 million yuan, ($146,000) and 500,000 yuan worth of property confiscated.

Wang Yong was sentenced to a total 14 years after he was found guilty of accepting $9 million in bribes based on a statement from billionaire Du Shuanghua, chairman of Shandong-based Rizhao Steel Co, who said that he had paid Wang the money to ensure steady supplies of iron ore from Rio.

Liu Caikui was sentenced to seven years for accepting about $439,500 in bribes and obtaining industry secrets, while Ge Minqiang was sentenced to eight years for accepting $879,000 in bribes and obtaining commercial secrets.