Four executives from mining giant Rio Tinto have been handed lengthy jail terms in China after being found guilty of bribery and stealing commercial secrets.
The Shanghai court said the head of the companies iron ore-operations in China, Australian citizen Stern Hu, would serve 10 years.
Three other employees, all Chinese nationals, were sentenced to between 7 and 14 years. Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith described the sentences as ‘very tough.’
Smith also criticised Chinese authorities for not allowing its diplomats access to the closed court, saying it left foreign firms uncertain about business rules in China.
The case initially strained relations between Australian and China, but Canberra has been keen to stress the verdict would not damage ties.
Rio Tinto recently signed a deal with China’s Chinalco to develop a massive iron ore mine in Guinea.