Detained Rio Tinto Employees Formally Arrested in China

Rio Tinto reported on August 12, 2009, that Chinese authorities had announced the grounds for the arrest of four Rio Tinto employees, who had been held since July 6 pending arrest. No formal charges were laid, but the arrest will allow the authorities to continue the detention of the employees during further investigations. Rio Tinto’s understanding was that the grounds for arrest related to allegations of obtaining Chinese steel-industry commercial secrets in breach of the provisions of Article 219 of the Chinese Criminal Law pertaining to the crime of violating commercial secrets; and additional allegations of commercial bribery in breach of the provisions of Article 163 of the Chinese Criminal Law pertaining to receipt of bribes by non-State personnel.

These charges were less serious than general assumptions prior to the arrests that the four would be charged with stealing state secrets. Nevertheless, if found guilty, the four could face jail sentences of four to seven years.

The Rio Tinto statement also noted that the company is continuing its business operations in China, including the maintenance of high levels of iron ore shipments from Australia. In a separate statement, China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Fu Ziying said the Rio Tinto case will not and should not hurt trade and economic ties between China and Australia.

Those arrested were Stern Hu, an Australian citizen who headed Rio Tinto’s Shanghai office and who is originally from China, and Chinese citizens Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong.

As featured in Womp 2009 Vol 07 -