SHANGHAI, March 22 (UPI) — The trial of Rio Tinto mining company employees in China opened with three men pleading guilty to accepting bribes, their lawyers said.
A fourth employee of the British-Australian mining giant is also expected to plead guilty, The New York Times reported Monday.
The case includes allegations that Rio Tinto executive Steve Hu and three Chinese employees stole secrets from state-owned companies and took about $12 million in bribes.
After nine months of detention, the trial began Monday with the admissions that could result in 10-year prison sentences.
The Australian consul general in Shanghai, Tom Connors, confirmed Hu had made “some admissions.”
Zhang Peihong, who is defending Wang Yong, said his client, accused of taking $10 million in bribes, pleaded guilty to accepting $1 million.
The arrests of the four employees in July came shortly after Rio Tinto turned down a $19.5 billion joint project with Chinalco, one of China’s largest mining companies, raising concerns that the accusations were retaliation for the company’s decision.
Later this week, the trial is expected to change direction, focusing on accusations that the employees stole company secrets.
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