Diversified miner Rio Tinto has agreed to pay a $15-million civil penalty, without admitting or denying to allegations made by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) into certain contractual payments made to a former consultant over a decade ago in 2011, relating to the Simandou project in the Republic of Guinea.
The miner has agreed to the civil penalty for “violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)” it said in a statement this week.
The SEC alleges that in July 2011 Rio hired a French investment banker and close friend of a former senior Guinean government official as a consultant to help the company retain its mining rights in the Simandou region in Guinea.
The consultant began working on behalf of Rio without a written agreement defining the scope of his services or deliverables. Eventually the mining rights were retained, and the consultant was paid $10.5-million for his services, which Rio never verified.
The SEC’s investigation uncovered that the consultant, acting as Rio’s agent, offered and attempted to make an improper payment of at least $822,000 to a Guinean government official in connection with the consultant’s efforts to help Rio retain its mining rights.
Furthermore, none of the payments to the consultant was accurately reflected in Rio’s books and records, and the company failed to have sufficient internal accounting controls in place to detect or prevent the misconduct, the SEC said in a statement.
“We are glad to have resolved this matter related to events that occurred over a decade ago on appropriate and reasonable terms. When Rio became aware of the issue, an internal investigation was immediately launched, and we proactively notified the appropriate authorities,” chairperson Dominic Barton said.
“Since becoming aware, Rio Tinto has taken significant actions to enhance our compliance programme based on best practices. Under current leadership we are taking action to build a culture guided by our values of care, courage and curiosity; an environment where every team member feels comfortable to speak up if something is not right. We remain committed to conducting business to the highest standards of integrity, and ensuring that our projects benefit communities, host governments, shareholders, and customers.”