12 Aug 2009 08:37

Shanghai authorities formally arrest Rio Tinto employees - report

Shanghai. August 12. INTERFAX-CHINA - Four Shanghai-based Rio Tinto employees, including the head of Rio Tinto's iron ore department in China Stern Hu, have been formally arrested by authorities in Shanghai under charges of obtaining commercial secrets and bribery, state media reported on Aug. 11.

According to Xinhua news agency, investigations uncovered evidence that Hu and his three co-workers, Liu Likui, Ge Minqiang, and Wang Yong violated Chinese criminal law. Investigators have also applied to formally arrest those suspected of providing the commercial secrets of Chinese steel mills to the Rio Tinto employees.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has yet to make an announcement.

Espionage charges that had earlier been alleged by Chinese authorities were not mentioned in the Xinhua report. On July 9, the MoFA said that the four Rio Tinto employees were detained under suspicion of espionage, as their activities harmed China's economic interests and posed a security risk.

The four were taken into custody in early July, and Hu, as an Australian citizen, was allowed a second visit by Australian consular officials on Aug. 7.

Sam Walsh, chief executive of Rio's iron ore department, said in an announcement on Aug. 11 that the company remains surprised and concerned over the detention of its staff and is still unaware of any evidence that would support the detention.