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Last updated at 17:37 BST, Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Rio Tinto executive accused of bribery


10 July 2009

Four employees of the Rio Tinto mining company have been detained by Chinese authorities. According to reports in China's state media, they are accused of stealing state secrets and bribing employees of Chinese steel companies.

Chris Hogg

A conveyor belt filled with iron ore

Iron ore


Click to hear the report


Stern Hu, an Australian who runs Rio Tinto's operations in Shanghai was the lead negotiator in the mining company's annual talks with Chinese steel makers over iron ore prices. China is the world's largest consumer of iron ore.

This year the negotiators failed to meet a deadline on June 30th to agree what's known as the benchmark price for supplies from Rio Tinto and the other big companies. The statement from the Shanghai office of the National Security Agency says Mr Hu and his colleagues used improper methods, including bribery,to obtain material from Chinese negotiators during the talks, according to media reports here.

Rio Tinto has denied that its employees were involved in spying. Australian diplomats say they've now been given permission to visit Mr Hu for the first time since he was detained on Monday. The country's foreign minister, Stephen Smith, says he's been given assurances by the Chinese the mining executive is being treated well.


Click to hear the vocabulary


lead negotiator

the main person who tries to help two groups reach an agreement with each other

iron ore

the raw material from which iron ore can be obtained


a time or day by which something must be done

benchmark price

a standard value of iron ore


an official written description

improper methods

wrong or unsuitable ways of doing something


the act of trying to make someone do something by giving them money, presents or something else they want


the act of secretly gathering and reporting information about the activities of another country or organisation


to force someone officially to stay in a place, for example in a police station or in prison

given assurances


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