The UK Serious Fraud Office released a statement Monday confirming that it has opened a corruption investigation into mining giant Rio Tinto.
The SFO said the investigation targets “suspected corruption in the conduct of business in the Republic of Guinea by the Rio Tinto group, its employees and others associated with it,” according to an alert from FCPA Tracker.
In November last year, Rio Tinto suspended the chief executive of its energy and minerals division pending an investigation of a $10.5 million payment to a consultant for the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea.
The executive, Alan Davies, was in charge of Simandou in 2011 when the payments for “advisory services” were allegedly made, the company said in an SEC filing.
London-based Rio Tinto said it learned about the payments in August last year from email correspondence.
The SEC disclosure also said Legal & Regulatory Affairs group executive Debra Valentine stepped down.
The SEC filing, posted earlier on FCPA Tracker, said Rio Tinto notified authorities in the UK and the United States. The company also said it was “in the process of contacting the Australian authorities.”
Rio Tinto put the $20 billion Simandou project on hold because of low iron ore prices. It sold its 46.6 percent interest in Simandou in 2016 for about $1.3 billion to Chinalco, a Chinese company listed in Hong Kong.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.