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China Jails Rio Tinto Employees


Rio Tinto Chief Executive Officer Tom Albanese
A Chinese court has sentenced four employees of mining company Rio Tinto, including an Australian national, to jail terms of up to 14 years.

The court in Shanghai said Stern Hu, an Australian employee, and his three Chinese colleagues were guilty of accepting bribes and stealing trade secrets.

Hu, the head of the Anglo-Australian miner's Shanghai office, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His three Chinese co-workers were given jail terms of 14, eight, and seven years, respectively.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the sentence for the Australian was "very tough" and that there were "serious unanswered questions" about the industrial spying charges.

"On the bribery charge, this to me seems to be a very harsh sentence," Smith said. "And on the commercial secrets matter, because we have had no access to that part of the trial, there are, I think, serious unanswered questions which the international business community will want to continue to pursue with China."

Rio Tinto said all four employees who had admitted to taking bribes would be sacked.

The trial had been seen as a test of China's legal treatment of foreign businesses operating in the country.

compiled from agency reports