By Agence France-Presse
An Australian Rio Tinto executive jailed in China after being convicted of accepting bribes and stealing trade secrets has been freed, a Chinese official said Wednesday.
The case of Stern Hu, head of the Anglo-Australian miner’s Shanghai office, and three Chinese staff sparked international concerns about the rule of law in China at the time and strained China-Australian ties.
Hu “observed our laws and regulations well while in prison, so our judicial departments mitigated his sentence. I can tell you that he is released today,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters at a regular briefing.
The executive was jailed in 2010 on a 10-year sentence.
The four were guilty of stealing trade secrets including the minutes of a China Iron and Steel Association meeting and information on China steel giant Shougang’s output, the court had said at sentencing.
The Shanghai court also said Hu took bribes totalling 6.46 million yuan ($975,000).
The four Rio employees were arrested during contentious iron ore contract talks between top mining companies and the steel industry in China, the world’s largest consumer of the raw material. The talks later collapsed.