Australian Rio Tinto employee Stern Hu has been sentenced to a decade in gaol by Chinese authorities.
Hu and four other Rio employees were arrested last year in relation to charges of bribery and obtaining commercial secrets.
Rio released a statement condemning the actions of its former employees, saying “they engaged in deplorable behaviour that is totally at odds with our strong ethical culture.”
Iron ore chief Sam Walsh added that “in accordance with our policies we will terminate their employment.”
While Rio was unable to comment on the charges of obtaining commercial secrets, it had “been informed of the clear evidence presented in court that showed beyond doubt that the four convicted employees had accepted bribes.”
The miner went on to say that following an internal investigation, it concluded that the activities were carried outside of Rio’s systems.
Following this investigation, Rio has begun implementing improvements to its current procedures and has ordered an independent review of its processes and controls.
Hu pleaded guilty to bribery charges earlier in the week, along with Wang Yong, Ge Minqiang and Liu Caikui who also pleaded guilty to the same charge and were sentenced to gaol terms of 14, 8 and 7 years.
While one of Hu’s conspirators pleaded guilty to the charge of commercial espionage, he reportedly disputed parts of the charge.
According to reports from the AAP, Hu took money from small privately owned steel companies in China, who prior to the global downturn, were excluded from buying iron ore from Rio as the larger state owned steel companies had priority for the resource.
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith raised concerns during the hearings for industrial espionage, in which Chinese authorities excluded Australian consular staff.
Rio announced after the trial that “the unacceptable conduct of these four employees will not prevent Rio Tinto from continuing to build its important relationship with China.”