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Rio Tinto four face court

FOUR employees of mining giant Rio Tinto went on trial today at Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court on charges of stealing commercial secrets and taking bribes.

The hearing is scheduled to last for three days and no date has been announced for the verdict. The hearing into taking bribes is open to the public while the charge of commercial spying is closed because it relates to commercial secrets, the court said on its official Website.

The chief judge of the case is Liu Xin, who usually handles economic crime cases.

The four Rio employees are the head of its Shanghai office, Australian citizen Stern Hu, and Chinese citizens Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong.

The four have been in custody in Shanghai since last July and were formally arrested on August 11, 2009.

They were accused by prosecutors of taking advantage of their position to seek profits for others, and asking for, or illegally accepting, huge amounts of money from Chinese steel enterprises.

They allegedly lured Chinese steel executives by illegal means many times in a bid to obtain steel companies' commercial secrets, causing "extremely serious consequences" for the firms, prosecutors allege.

China is Australia's biggest trading partner, with US$53 billion worth of business turned over last year.

Australia exported US$15 billion worth of iron ore to China in 2008.


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