Issues of International Law: Rio Tinto Bribery Case

The Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People¡¯s Court sentenced four employees of British-Australian mining conglomerate ¡°Rio Tinto¡± to jail on Monday on charges of receiving bribes and stealing commercial secrets. The jail terms, ranging from seven to fourteen years, have been criticized as overly harsh by the Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, although acknowledged respect for Chinese legal and judicial processes. The four employees-one an Australian national and three Chinese nationals- were convicted of receiving over 92 million yuan in bribes. It was the court¡¯s opinion that the defendants obtained confidential information regarding Chinese steel mill processes that would be used as leverage to drive up the price China pays for iron ore imports from Rio Tinto, as well as other international suppliers. The four defendants will pay the price of damaged competitiveness to Chinese steel industry, although many believe this was an opportunity for China to clarify its own notion of commercial secrets. The international business community as a whole looked to China to make clarifications, although that part of the trial was held in closed court. Vague legal boundaries have been sited as one reason why foreign business sentiment seems to be souring against China, especially in lieu of Google¡¯s exit from the mainland.

¡°As China¡¯s influence in the international business world continues to grow, matters of international law will continue to resurface,¡± stated Edward Lehman, senior attorney of Lehman, Lee and Xu. ¡°As one of the largest corporate commercial law firms on the Chinese mainland, Lehman, Lee, and Xu is prepared to meet all the needs of our international business customers. There is hardly an aspect of international law we do not touch upon for both domestic and international companies, and have the capabilities to make clear any questions they may have.¡±

For more information about Lehman, Lee & Xu, as well as a full listing of our services, please visit the firm's website at or feel free to e-mail the Beijing office at

Morgan Crank

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