SHANGHAI: Four employees of Australian mining giant Rio Tinto were charged Wednesday with bribery and infringing trade secrets, said a court statement.
The No. 1 branch of the Shanghai People's Procuratorate has decided to prosecute Australian citizen Stern Hu, former head of Rio Tinto's Shanghai office, and three local employees, Wang Yong, Ge Minqiang and Liu Caikui.
The Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court has accepted the case.
The statement by the court said prosecutors accused the four of "taking advantage of their position to seek profit for others, and asking for, or illegally accepting, huge amounts of money from Chinese steel enterprises."
It said they lured the Chinese enterprises' heads with promises, or through other illegal means, to obtain the steel companies' commercial secrets on multiple occasions, causing "extremely serious consequence" for the companies.
Hu was detained in July last year along with his three Chinese colleagues on suspicion of stealing state secrets. The police concluded their investigation and sent it to prosecutors on January 11.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said on January 12 China has dealt with the case according to Chinese law and the diplomatic agreements between China and Australia.
Last week, the mining giant appointed Ian Bauert as its new China operations chief. Bauert set up the company's first China office more than 25 years ago and speaks fluent Chinese.
The company's move was seen as an effort to improve relations with its largest customer, after they cooled with the arrest of Stern Hu and Rio Tinto's spurning of Chinalco's 19.5-billion US dollar investment last year.
Headquartered in London and with offices in Melbourne, Rio Tinto is the world's second largest iron ore supplier, with mines located in Australia and North America.