Shanghai trial of Rio Tinto staff ends, no verdict |

Shanghai trial of Rio Tinto staff ends, no verdict

SHANGHAI (AP) – The trial in Shanghai of four employees of mining giant Rio Tinto on charges of taking bribes and stealing commercial secrets ended Wednesday as expected, though no verdict was announced.

Defense lawyer Tao Wuping said the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court finished hearing the case by midday, somewhat earlier than expected, because proceedings went very smoothly.

Tao would not comment on any details of the secrecy charges against the four, who include three Chinese and one Australian citizen, Stern Hu, who was heading Rio Tinto’s iron ore business in China at the time of his arrest.

The four pleaded guilty to charges they took bribes, although they contested the amounts allegedly involved in some cases, lawyers have said.

Those attending the sessions regarding theft of commercial secrets were ordered by the court not to disclose any information, Tao said.

The Rio Tinto case is seen by many working in China as a signal that the Communist-ruled government is subjecting foreign companies to increasingly close scrutiny, raising the risks of running afoul of secrecy rules that are themselves kept secret.

However, Tao said the business secrets allegedly stolen by the Rio Tinto employees were straightforward commercial information.

“The case is not as complicated as the public may think,” he said.

Hu and the others were detained last July in a case seen as linked to Beijing’s anger over high prices it paid for iron ore – a key commodity in China’s booming economy. Rio Tinto, based in London and Melbourne, is one of the top suppliers of ore to China and a key industry negotiator in price talks with China’s state-owned steel mills.

Australia’s consul-general in Shanghai attended the court sessions on the bribery charges. His government formally protested the court’s decision to close sessions handling charges of industrial espionage, which began Tuesday afternoon.