Australia's iron ore giant Rio Tinto says guilty workers won't derail China relationship

20:10, March 29, 2010      

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Australia's iron ore giant Rio Tinto Ltd says Monday the Stern Hu case will not derail its efforts to continue building its important relationship with China.

"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," chief executive Tom Albanese said in a statement on Monday.

The four Rio Tinto employees, including Australian citizen Stern Hu, were sentenced in Shanghai on Monday after a Chinese court last week found them guilty of accepting bribes and stealing commercial secrets.

Hu was sentenced to 10 years while his three co-accused, Chinese nationals Liu Caikui, Wang Yong and Ge Minqiang were sentenced to jail terms ranging from seven to 14 years.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Sam Walsh said Monday that an internal company review, assisted by independent forensic accountants and lawyers, had concluded that the illegal activities of the four employees were conducted wholly outside the company's systems.

Walsh said receiving bribes was a "clear violation" of Chinese law and Rio Tinto's own code of conduct. "We have been informed of the clear evidence presented in court that showed beyond doubt that the four convicted employees had accepted bribes," Walsh said.

Rio Tinto Ltd said in the statement "We have been informed of the clear evidence presented in court that showed beyond doubt that the four convicted employees accepted bribes. And by doing this, they engaged in deplorable behavior that is totally at odds with our strong ethical culture. In accordance with our policies, we will terminate their employment."

Later in the day, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told reporters in Canberra there was substantial evidence that Hu was guilty of bribery. "The advice I have is that in addition to Stern Hu's own admissions there was other evidence which drew Australian officials to the conclusion that acts of bribery had occurred."

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