Rio employees receive 'tough' jail sentences (2)

09:10, March 30, 2010      

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The two were detained around the same time as Rio's employees last year.

Lawyers representing Rio's four employees said they were yet to meet with their clients to decide whether to lodge an appeal.

While acknowledging evidence that bribery acts did occur among Rio's employees, Smith said there were "serious unanswered questions" regarding the commercial secrets charges. That part of the trial was held in closed court and no details have been made public.

He said the issue was not only of concern to Stern Hu and the other accused, but also more generally and widely to the Australian and international business community. China had "missed a substantial opportunity" to bring clarity to the notion of commercial secrets, he said.

Shortly after the announcement of the verdicts, Rio Tinto posted a statement on its website, quoting Sam Walsh, chief executive of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, as saying that receiving bribes is "a clear violation of Chinese law and Rio Tinto's code of conduct" and that the company will "terminate employment" of the four men.

Tom Albanese, Rio's chief executive, said: "I am determined that the unacceptable conduct of these four employees will not prevent Rio Tinto from continuing to build its important relationship with China. This is a high priority for me personally."

The Rio case, together with search engine Google's recent announcement to pull out of the Chinese mainland, has been widely seen by foreign media as a sign that foreign business sentiment is souring against China, where legal boundaries are blamed as vague.

Chen Fengying, a researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said China had dealt with the case in accordance with Chinese law. She refuted the foreign media's association of the case with the business environment in the country. Instead, the case reflects the fact that "China is getting increasingly international".

"It is unavoidable that bribery cases involving multinational firms in China will increase as the country integrates more closely with international business community, which is true across the world. More bribery cases will be exposed as China learns how to cope with them," she said.

Source: China Daily
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