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Page last updated at 07:02 GMT, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Rio Tinto trial in China ends without verdict

The Shanghai court where the group are being tried
Australian diplomats are barred from the session on commercial secrets

The trial in China of four executives of mining giant Rio Tinto has ended, a defence lawyer has said.

However no verdict has been announced so far, and Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said it could take some days for one to emerge.

The executives - Australian Stern Hu and his three Chinese colleagues - were charged with bribery and secrets theft.

The trial, which opened on Monday, has heightened concerns among the foreign business community in China.

Mr Hu and his colleagues were reported to have admitted some of the bribery charges, but disputed the amounts involved.

He was Rio Tinto's lead negotiator in the talks with Chinese steel mills to try to settle a price for China to buy iron ore from Australian mining companies.

Transparency?

If convicted on commercial espionage and bribery charges he and his colleagues - Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong - face lengthy jail terms under Chinese law.

RIO TINTO TRIAL
Four executives including one Australian on trial
Group faced charges of bribery and illegally obtaining commercial secrets
Parts of the trial held behind closed doors, despite Australian objections
Trial lasted three days

The midday end to the trial was earlier than expected because the proceedings went smoothly, defence lawyer Tao Wuping was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

"The case is not as complicated as the public may think," he said.

Another lawyer said there had been intense debates in court about the amounts of money involved in the bribery allegations.

Australian diplomats have expressed concern about the lack of transparency in China's conduct of the trial.

They and other foreign observers were barred from parts of the trial dealing with the commercial espionage charges.

The four executives were taken from their homes last July and have not been allowed to see their families since.

Speaking as the trial opened, Rio Tinto's chief executive, Tom Albanese, said that the company remained committed to strengthening ties with China.



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