Rio in graft probe
INVESTIGATIONS into Rio Tinto’s payments to a contractor in Guinea have taken a dramatic step forward in Britain.
The UK’s Serious Fraud Office has declared it suspects there has been corruption in dealings by the miner, its employees and others associated with it.
Rio said in November it had notified authorities in Britain, the US and Australia about its concerns over a $ A13.2 million payment the company made to a consultant with close ties to Guinean President Alpha Conde while trying to maintain mining rights there in 2011.
But at the company’s London annual meeting in April, chairman Jan du Plessis stressed Rio had not admitted corruption or bribery and that dismissals of executive committee members Alan Davies and Debra Valentine were because of company code of conduct breaches.
In a statement on Monday, the Serious Fraud Office said it had “opened an investigation into suspected corruption in the conduct of business in the Republic of Guinea by the Rio Tinto group, its employees and others associated with it”.
It was the first comment on the matter from the regulator and the first mention of suspected bribery or corruption by authorities.
The development shows the Serious Fraud Office believes the matter referred to it by Rio is serious enough to mount a full investigation. “Rio Tinto will fully co- operate with the Serious Fraud Office and any other relevant authorities, as it has done since it self- reported in November 2016,” a Rio spokesman said.
In March, the Australian Federal Police launched an investigation into the alleged payment by Rio.
The investigations come during a long- running scandal surrounding the iron- ore deposits in the West African nation’s Simandou range, considered one of the mining world’s most coveted prizes.
In November, Rio Tinto said it fired Mr Davies, who was head of Simandou at the time, and Ms Valentine, who was legal and regulatory affairs head, after a $ 13.2 million payment related to Simandou came to light.
Mr Davies in November said in a statement that there were “no grounds” for his termination and he had been given “no opportunity to answer any allegations”.