UPDATE 2-Verdict on China Rio trial on Monday, Australia says

* Shanghai trial strains ties but business goes on

* Australia says will respond after verdict on Monday
(Adds Rio statement, paragraph 7)

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY, March 25 (BestGrowthStock) – Australia said on Thursday it
had been told by China that the verdict in the trial of four
Rio Tinto executives charged with bribery and stealing
commercial secrets will be handed down on Monday.

The case in Shanghai has raised tensions between Australia
and China, it’s biggest trading partner, and highlighted
Chinese sensitivities over its rich steel sector.

“The Shanghai Number 1 Court has informed Australia’s
Consulate General in Shanghai that the verdicts in the trial of
Mr Stern Hu will be delivered on Monday, 29 March,” Australia’s
foreign affairs department said in a statement.

“Australian consular officials will be present at the court
at this time. The Australian government will make a considered
statement after the conclusion of these processes,” it said.

Australian Stern Hu and three Chinese colleagues have all
admitted taking kickbacks but have contested the amounts
alleged by prosecutors. They face possible jail terms of at
least five years on the bribery charge.

Hu, the head of the China iron ore business, subordinate Ge
Minqiang and iron ore salesman Wang Yong have denied the
commercial secrets charge. The fourth defendant, Liu Caiku, has
not contested that charge, his lawyer Tao Wuping has said.

Rio Tinto (RIO.AX: )(RIO.L: ) later said in a statement it had
been advised verdicts would be delivered on Monday but made no
further comment.

“We’ll need to see the verdict first before we decide
whether or not to appeal,” Liu’s lawyer Tao, who earlier said
he had not been told when the verdicts would be delivered, told
Reuters.

The three-day trial, which ended on Wednesday, has also
raised worries about China’s secretive legal system.

Australia’s Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has
told China the world is watching how it handles the case.

Australia asked the trial be held in open court to ensure
justice, but only the bribery charges were open to observers.

The trial comes at a time of increased strain between
China, the world’s third-largest economy, and foreign
businesses.

On Monday, internet giant Google Inc (Read more about Google Stock Analysis). (GOOG.O: ) said it
would redirect users of its mainland Chinese-language search
engine to one based in Hong Kong over a censorship and hacking
row.

BUSINESS AS USUAL

Rio, seeking to improve relations with China, had
maintained since the men were detained last July during
sensitive annual iron ore price negotiations that they had done
nothing wrong.

The case has forced Rio, the world No. 2 iron ore producer,
to examine the way it conducts business in China. Iron ore is
the main raw material in steel-making and China is the biggest
consumer of the ore.

But the case seems to have had little impact on Rio’s
operations in China, which became its biggest customer last
year, accounting for a quarter of its sales.

Days before the trial began, Rio Tinto signed a $2.9
billion deal with Chinese metals group Chinalco to develop an
African iron ore mine [SGE62109U].

Rio Tinto has conducted an independent internal audit to
clear itself of any wrongdoing and determine whether there was
evidence the company paid bribes to, or received illegal
payments from, Chinese steel mills, Australian media said on
Wednesday.

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(Additional reporting by Lucy Hornby in SHANGHAI; Editing
by Paul Tait)

UPDATE 2-Verdict on China Rio trial on Monday, Australia says