Rio says no basis for bribe claims

RIO Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Sam Walsh says allegations of bribery in the case of detained executive Stern Hu are baseless.

Kate Haycock

The company has been keeping relatively quiet throughout the events of the past fortnight after one of its senior iron ore executives was detained in China.

In an emailed Friday, Walsh said Rio believed “the allegations in recent media reports that employees were involved in bribery of officials at Chinese steel mills are wholly without foundation”.

“We remain fully supportive of our detained employees, and believe that they acted at all times with integrity and in accordance with Rio Tinto’s strict and publicly stated code of ethical behaviour,” he added.

Since Hu and three other Rio executives were detained almost two weeks ago, allegations have emerged that he and other Rio executives bribed steel mills in China.

Hu has also reportedly been accused of stealing state secrets and espionage in the process of negotiating benchmark iron ore prices between Rio and Chinese mills, though he has not been formally charged.

There have been rumours that Rio’s sales of iron ore into China have suffered as a result of the Hu affair, but today Rio said it continued to operate in China and was “maintaining high levels of iron ore shipments from Australia”

Domestically, the federal Opposition has continued to attack Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for failing to act over Hu, although the government has maintained it is doing everything within its power.