Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rio Charges Spark Uproar as U.S. Secrets Cases Surge

bloomberg.com

Aug. 13 (Bloomberg) -- China’s accusation that Rio Tinto Group executives infringed business secrets is a rare public response for the country in dealing with such conduct. In the U.S., prosecutions of Chinese industrial espionage are rising.

More than 50 people have been prosecuted in the U.S. since 2006 for allegedly transporting restricted technology, stealing trade secrets or conducting business espionage for China, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Unlike the Rio Tinto case, many of the U.S. prosecutions involved military data.

“There has clearly been an uptick in export prosecutions, in large part in response to increased Chinese activity in an effort to acquire sensitive and controlled material in the United States,” said Clif Burns, an attorney specializing in international trade law in Washington.

Chinese authorities detained the four Rio Tinto executives on July 5, including Australian Stern Hu. A state-secrets agency official said the employees were “spying” on China’s steel industry. He later said that was just his opinion. The four were formally arrested on charges of trade secrets infringement and bribery, not espionage, China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate said Aug. 11, according to a Xinhua report.

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