SFO looks to investigate Rio's role in bribery case
Thursday 25 March 2010
The Serious Fraud Office said yesterday that it was "assessing" the case of the four Rio Tinto executives whose bribery and espionage trial closed in Shanghai yesterday, and whether their guilty pleas warranted an investigation in the UK.
A verdict in the case in China could take a number of weeks. Three of the four Rio employees, including an Australian national, Stern Hu, have pleaded guilty to accepting bribes. The final two days of the hearing were held in secret as Shanghai People's Court No 1 considered corporate espionage charges. It is not known how the four pleaded. A lawyer for one accused, Wang Yong, said an unnamed suspect had not contested the charges.
A spokesman for Rio Tinto said the Anglo-Australian mining giant was not aware of any SFO investigation.
The company has previously refused to comment on the case, but yesterday moved to distance itself from the four. "We have strict ethical guidelines to cover this sort of behaviour, which we expect all our employees to follow," said the spokesman. "We try and rigorously enforce these rules throughout the company."
In recent days, Rio Tinto has refused to say whether it still employs the four defendants. When they were first detained last July, it said the arrests were "without foundation".
The Sydney-based newspaper The Australian reported yesterday that an internal investigation by Rio Tinto had found no wrongdoing on the firm's part, although this is unlikely to weigh heavily with any SFO inquiry.
The trial, and any subsequent investigation by British authorities would be highly embarrassing for Rio Tinto. The four staff were initially detained a month after the company spurned a $18.5bn investment bid from the state-owned Chinese aluminium group Chinalco. Some analysts believe the trial is politically motivated and the guilty pleas were part of plea bargain. Prosecutors are pressing for sentences of up to five years.
Rio Tinto is keen to avoid upsetting Beijing officials over the trial because it is involved in delicate negotiations about setting the annual iron ore price with leading Chinese steel mills.
- 4 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 5 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Who should I vote for in the general election? Take The Independent's interactive quiz to find out which party is the right choice for you
General election: Conservatives mocked online over Boris Johnson's claim of SNP 'jockalypse'
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
General Election 2015: Sturgeon claims Scots 'appalled' by Ed Miliband's refusal to work with SNP
iJobs Money & Business
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...
£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...