Not a fun place to be a commodities executive right now

Last week’s arrest of Stern Hu, a senior Rio Tinto executive in China, for alleged bribery shocked Australia (and presumably Rio Tinto too, although the company has so far limited its response to simply stating that it was aware of any wrongdoing).

None of the anxiety of Hu’s fate will be eased by news today that Chen Tonghai, the former chairman of Sinopec was given a suspended death sentence for accepting bribes worth $28m.

Meanwhile the state-run China Daily newspaper today reported an unnamed source claiming Rio officials had bribed 16 steel mill customers for information. As the ABC notes, the newspaper’s reports are sometimes used by the Chinese government to send a message to foreigners.

In Australia political pressure has been building on Mandarin-speaking prime minister Kevin Rudd to take a firmer stance on Stern’s arrest.  He did so today, pointing out to China that ‘a range of foreign governments and corporations’ would be watching Stern’s progress. He also said that Australia’s relationship with China – a big customer of its abundant natural resources – did not go one way.

Related links:

Suspended death sentence for ex-Sinopec boss (Reuters, 15/07/09)
Rudd ups the ante (ABC News, 15/07/09)
Rio employee accused of bribery (FT, 10/07/09)

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