Rio employees trial ends, verdict pending

08:23, March 25, 2010      

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No immediate verdict was given from the Shanghai No 1 Intermediate People's Court, after it heard the case prosecuting four Rio Tinto employees on Wednesday.

From Monday to Wednesday, the court put on trial the four, who are accused of stealing commercial secrets and pocketing bribery worth millions of yuan.

The trial wrapped up at the Court at midday Wednesday, and no date was set for the verdict, said Zhai Jian, a lawyer representing one of the accused.

The four, including naturalized Australian citizen Stern Hu and his three Chinese colleagues - Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong - were charged with taking bribes of more than 86 million yuan (US$12.6 million) and violating commercial secrets.

All four pleaded guilty to bribery charges on Monday, although they disputed the specifics of the charges, including how much they have actually accepted in the graft case.

The guilty plea came as a surprise to many observers in the world, as the Australian mining giant had earlier defended the innocence of its four employees, claiming that they "had done nothing wrong".

It is now certain that all four will receive punishment, estimated at some 5-15 years in prison, strictly in keeping with the law.

Court proceedings dealing with the theft of commercial secrets were held behind closed doors on the second and third day. Few details were made public.

Media reports cited another lawyer, Zhang Peihong, as saying three of the four defendants on trial for stealing commercial secrets had contested the charge.

The indictment alleges the four used improper means to obtain commercial secrets from Chinese steel-makers. The information they obtained is believed to have been used as a bargaining chip to drive up the price that China pays for iron ore imports.

In a statement, the spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said "they were not in a position to say anything further at this point", but that Australian consular officers "will be present when the court reconvenes to announce the verdict".

By People's Daily Online

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