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Mining and Metallurgy Industries

The mining and metallurgy industries are currently dealing with the problem of increasing global demand for raw materials in the face of declining production from developed countries. To meet rising demand, companies have sought production opportunities in emerging markets, where corruption and bribery are widespread. Producing raw materials abroad oftentimes involves participation in production-sharing agreements or work contracts with the host government, or joint ventures with private or state-owned companies, making compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and U.K. Bribery Act an increasingly difficult challenge.

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Case Study

Company: Rio Tinto
Charges: Accepting bribes and stealing government secrets
Penalty:

4 employees sentenced to 7-14 years in prison


British-Australian Rio Tinto Limited (RIO) is one of the world's largest international mining groups. The company is involved in every stage of metal and mineral production and comprises five main product groups, including aluminum, copper, diamonds & minerals, energy and iron ore. For years, Rio Tinto has been a major supplier of iron ore to China's mostly state-owned steel industry.

In July 2009, Stern Hu, the China-born Australian who headed Rio Tinto's Shanghai office, was arrested, along with three other Rio Tinto employees. The Chinese government charged the employees with accepting bribes from two steel mills that buy iron ore for themselves and for China's 120 steel producers. The court stated that the Rio Tinto employees took money from the private steelmakers in exchange for granting them long-term supply contracts that were otherwise available only to larger mills.

The four individuals were also charged with the serious crime of stealing state secrets consisting of "sensitive industry data critical to China's iron ore price talks. "That charge was later reduced to commercial secrets violations. The four employees were found guilty of taking a total of $13.5 million in bribes and were each sentenced to 7 to 14 years in prison.

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