Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu has been formally charged with trade secrets infringement and bribery by China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate after being detained for 38 days, Chinese media reported.
According to news agency Xinhua, investigations showed that Hu and three other Rio employees, Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong, had violated Chinese criminal law by obtaining commercial secrets of the country’s steel and iron industry through improper means.
The authorities claim to have also found evidence proving they were involved in commercial bribery.
Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Sam Walsh yesterday told journalists he was confident the employees had no case to answer.
“The charges have been downgraded and I think that reflects what we’ve been saying all along, which is that we don’t believe there’s any evidence of wrongdoing,” he said.
“We have a code of conduct and our employees have followed that.
“From what we understand, this is a normal commercial market situation.”
China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Fu Ziying said the Rio Tinto case will not hurt trade and economic ties between China and Australia, Xinhua reported.
“This is an isolated judicial case and the decision will undoubtedly be fair,” he said.
Stern Hu, a Chinese-born Australian citizen, was general manager of Rio Tinto’s Shanghai office.
He was visited by Australian Consular officials for the second time earlier this week and did not report any welfare or medical concerns.
The four employees were detained in Shanghai on 5 July, accused of espionage and stealing state secrets.