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January 12, 2010

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Police wrap up inquiries into Rio Tinto quartet

CHINESE police have concluded investigations into four employees of Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd, who were suspected of infringing trade secrets and bribery.

The four were handed over to the city's prosecutors for prosecution, Shanghai public security authorities said yesterday.

The four suspects included the head of Rio Tinto's Shanghai office, Australian citizen Stern Hu, and three local employees Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong, said a statement by Shanghai Public Security Bureau.

The four Rio staff have been in Chinese custody since July over accusations of illegally obtaining commercial secrets.

"The case is now in the hands of the Shanghai People's Procuratorate who will decide whether it should be brought to trial," Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade said in a statement after being notified by Chinese authorities.

"We are not in a position to say how long this phase of the case will take, and are not prepared to speculate about the outcome.

"Details of the actual charges are not likely to be known until the prosecutors have made their decision on whether the case should proceed to trial."

The case has placed a cloud over contentious iron ore price negotiations between China and miners Rio, its fellow Australian miner BHP Billiton and Brazil's Vale.

"This transfer is the next stage in a continuing legal process under Chinese law," said Sam Walsh, Rio's chief executive in charge of iron ore.

"It would not be appropriate for the company to comment any further at this point in the case other than to reaffirm our hope that matters proceed in an expeditious and transparent manner."

Prosecutors have about a month to decide whether to go to trial.


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