Tan Yixin, a senior executive of China's major steel maker Shougang Group, was detained July 7 in Beijing for alleged "commercial crimes", local media reported early Thursday.
Insiders said Tan is intimate with Stern Hu, a Rio Tinto executive, who was detained in Shanghai on Sunday on charges of espionage. Four employees of the global mining giant Rio Tinto in Shanghai have been detained.
Shougang Group denied all links with Rio Tinto saying it knows nothing about Tan’s detention. Tan, in his early 40s, is the assistant general manager of China Shougang International Trade & Engineering Corporation, a subsidiary of Shougang Group.
Sources said Tan was in charge of the company’s import and export business of iron ore and maintained close contact with Stern Hu.
In April, Stern Hu went to Shougang Group to negotiate the price of iron ore price.
In China, steel makers are banned from signing long term iron ore supply contracts with foreign suppliers such as Rio Tinto without permission.
China Iron and Steel Association, the industry regulator, has vowed to punish any companies that sign such agreements secretly.
Rio signed a 10-year contract with Jiangxi's Ping Xiang Iron &Steel Co. Ltd at the end of last year, with Stern Hu as Rio’s representative. China Iron and Steel Association was strongly against this agreement.
“The detention of Shougang’s executive may be just a beginning. Steel makers in Shandong and Hebei Province will be investigated, too,” the insider said.