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Stern Hu trial ends in China -

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The trial of Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu ended today in China. Kerry O'Brien speaks with ABC
correspondent Stephen McDonell from China.


KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Stern Hu and three other Rio Tinto executives are back in their cells
tonight awaiting the verdict in their Shanghai trial on charges involving bribery and commercial
espionage. There's still a great deal of guesswork involved in trying to follow the trial.
Authorities have allowed Australian consular officials to observe the first part of the hearing,
related to charges of receiving bribes, to which Stern Hu pleaded guilty. But today's hearing on
the commercial espionage was in a completely closed court. Stern Hu has pleaded not guilty to the
charges that were heard today. And, late in the day, I spoke with the ABC's China correspondent
Stephen McDonnell in Shanghai.

Stephen McDonnell, now that the trial against Stern Hu and the other Rio Tinto executives has
actually ended, can you summarise what you know has happened before we start to try and fill in the
gaps of what we don't really know?

STEPHEN MCDONNELL, CHINA CORRESPONDENT: OK, well, in a nutshell what we know is that there's been
two part of this trial. A first part looking at bribery, and a second part looking at offering
inducements in return for the secrets of Chinese steel companies. Now, in the first part, the
defendants admitted to taking those bribes, but contested the amounts. And in the second part of
the trial, at least one of these defendants has admitted to being somehow involved in this
commercial espionage part, but we don't know how many of them and to what extent they're admitting
their involvement in that.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So, how much detail do you have on exactly what Stern Hu has pleaded guilty to?

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Well, not a lot of detail, I would have to say. We know there's two amounts of
money which add up to roughly AU$1 million. But we still don't know, like, who it is who's supposed
to have given him that money or what things he's supposed to have done in return. We have no idea
of that. And in terms of the second part of the trial, again, we have no idea what Stern Hu's
involvement has been in this commercial espionage part of it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Is it known for sure that Stern Hu has pleaded not guilty to everything related to
this second round of charges of stealing commercial secrets?

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Well, not really. We're getting these reports that he is not the one who has
pleaded guilty to the stealing commercial secrets part. But, you know, we're just getting these
dribs and drabs of information from the lawyers and trying to piece this together as best we can.
So maybe there is part of it that he has admitted to. But, yeah, I'd have to say we couldn't say
one way or the other for certain what his admissions have been in this second part of the trial.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Do you understand why this second part of the trial relating to commercial espionage
has been held completely behind closed doors as opposed to the part relating to bribery, where at
least a handful of observers including Australia's Consul General were allowed in?

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Well according to an official statement from the Australian Government, one of
the parties requested this, and it seems that party's not Rio Tinto, so it has to be someone on the
steel company's side of things. Now, there was a report in the Chinese press today that quite a
well known Chinese steel company boss has been involved and that he's given this written testimony
and said that he offered $9 million to Wan Yong, one of the Rio defendants and that guaranteed the
delivery of iron ore at a stable price and in a stable timeframe which enabled him to massively
expand his operations and his company came from nowhere to leapfrogging all these other steel
companies in a flash. And that's because, apparently, he offered these bribes.

Now, of course in a Chinese trial, we haven't had him in there giving evidence in a way that, for
example, the defendants could cross-examine what he has to say to test the validity of that. It's
just you give a written statement and that's read out and then you as best have to defend yourself
against this written statement. And it may well be that it's the presence of this steel company
boss, whose name is Du Swang Qua - that it's because of his involvement this has been kept secret.
Part of the speculation is that he has some links in a financial way to President Hu Jintao's
family. And if he has powerful friends like that, well, maybe he doesn't want his name bandied
around in a court in a way that it would get out to the public that he's been involved.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has said that the verdict could be known
in a few days. What's your best understanding of how long it might take for a verdict to be
announced? And for that matter, does anyone really know outside this system how these hearings have
been conducted? Is there a single judge? Is there a panel of judges?

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Well, it could be a day, it could be weeks until we get a verdict here. I guess
it also depends on how much they've admitted to. And again, because we're not 100 per cent sure of
this it's hard to make a judgment on how quickly the result might come out. But the defendants have
said to the court, "Because we've made certain admissions we deserve some sort of leniency in terms
of any penalties." Now - and again, we know they've made some sort of admissions and maybe that'll
speed the process up. But I think it's probably gonna be - I wouldn't be surprised if it's gonna
take weeks for this to come out, or at least a week.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And what are the range of sentences that these defendants face?

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Well in China, if you get a sentence of, say, three years and a sentence of four
years, you don't serve them concurrently and it makes four years, you stick them together and it
makes seven years. They're looking at, I s'pose, anything from two to 15 years. So, you know, it
also depends on how much they've admitted to as to how much they might get in terms of sentencing.
And certainly there is a particular gaol - if Stern Hu goes down he will go to this gaol, because
all the foreigners in Shanghai go to the same prison if they're sentenced. It's not clear though
whether or not the other Rio Tinto executives would go to the same prison that he would go to. Now
I'm assuming he's gonna get some gaol time because he's admitted to at least part of the bribery.
But in a funny way it might be - there are sort of upsides to him going to prison because when he's
been in this detention system it's a bit of a limbo in China. No access to your family, this sort
of thing. Whereas once you go to gaol, he will have some sort of visitation rights and things like
that. So, strangely enough it might actually be better than the situation he's in now.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Stephen McDonnell, thanks for talking with us.

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Good to talk to you.