16:02, July 24 77 0 theguardian.com

2017-07-24 16:02:03
Rio Tinto faces SFO investigation over Guinea operations

The Serious Fraud Office has opened an investigation into how the mining company Rio Tinto conducted business in the Republic of Guinea.

“The Serious Fraud Office has 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,” the SFO said in a statement on Monday.

US-listed shares in Rio Tinto fell by 1.4% to $43.52 after news of the SFO investigation.

“Rio Tinto will fully cooperate with the Serious Fraud Office and any other relevant authorities, as it has done since it self-reported in November 2016,” the company said in a statement.

Last November Rio Tinto said that it had become aware of emails that referred to unexplained payments of $10.5m (£8.1m) in connection with the Simandou iron ore project in the West African nation.

The company said at the time that it had launched an internal investigation after becoming aware in late August about emails from 2011 that referred to contractual payments to an unidentified consultant relating to its project in the Simandou mountains, which contain the world’s largest untapped iron ore deposits.

In November Rio also revealed that it had suspended one senior executive, accepted the resignation of a second and alerted US and UK authorities after discovering the $10.5m in unexplained payments to a consultant in Guinea.

The previous month Rio announced that it had agreed to sell its 46.6% stake in the Simandou project to state-owned Chinese metals producer Chinalco.

Authorities and the industry have sought to improve governance in a sector that has faced several allegations of illegal payments to secure business in some countries.

The world’s biggest miner BHP Billiton paid $25m in 2015 to settle charges it violated a US anti-bribery law because it failed to properly monitor its programme sponsoring foreign government officials at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.