August 9, 2009

China publishes Rio Tinto spy allegations

Employees of the British-Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto engaged in commercial espionage for at least six years, Chinese officials said Sunday.

The allegations published Sunday on a Web site affiliated with China's State Secrets Bureau regarding four detained Rio Tinto employees were the first indication Chinese authorities believe the men conspired in a long-running spying operation, The New York Times reported.

The Rio Tinto employees were arrested last month in Shanghai, accused of obtaining Chinese state secrets while working on contracts to supply the country's huge, government-owned steel industry with raw materials such as iron ore and taconite, the newspaper said.

The National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets in China Web site mentioned only Rio Tinto by name, but it reportedly asserted that every foreign iron ore supplier had benefited from the secrets allegedly obtained by the detainees.

The Times said it could not reach Rio Tinto officials Sunday, but noted the company has denied the spying allegations in the past.