Rio Tinto execs admit accepting bribes in China

March 22, 2010 All eyes on China, as the three-day trial of four Rio Tinto executives began today. The executives are accused of accepting bribes and infringing commercial secrets.

Three of the executives – Stern Hu, Liu Caikui and Ge Minqiang – today admitted that they accepted bribes, while contesting the amounts. They face jail terms of between five and 15 years. The fourth executive – Wang Yong – who has been detained along with the others since August last year, has denied the charge, claiming that the received cash was merely a loan.

The trial is seen by many as a test of Chinese commitment to judicial transparency, a matter that makes a significant contribution to investor confidence. Despite Chinese insistence that the trial would not be politicised, many believe that the Communist Party will decide the outcome of the trial, rather than the judges.

Foreign press and most Chinese media outlets have been barred from the proceedings, and only three journalists have been granted access, all of whom represent publications belonging to the Communist party’s propaganda machine: the People's Daily, Xinhua news agency and Xin Min News. China also refused to give access to the Australian government, who requested access on the basis that one of the executives on trial – Stern Hu – is an Australian national.

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