Geoff Raby, Australia's former ambassador to China, has conceded that mining giant Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) committed errors in the lead up to a Chinese bribery scandal several years ago that strained relations between the two countries.
Raby's remarks in the Australian (paywall) mark the first occasion that the former ambassador has spoken publicly about the scandal, almost a year following his resignation from one of the country's top diplomatic positions.
According to Raby, the bribery scandal, which saw widespread outcry from the Australian business community and ended with Australian national and Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu receiving a ten year prison sentence, was essentially a matter of corporate governance and failure to exercise proper oversight of overseas offices.
His remarks are in line with more frank observations made by Australian corporate executives and advisers on the matter, with Clinton Dines, former president of BHP's China operations, saying that Rio's error was to "leave the locals in charge of its business, and people like Mr. Hu in the same job for upwards of 15 years."
Raby was Australia's ambassador to Beijing at the time of the Stern Hu affair, which brought relations between China and Australia to a diplomatic low point.
Image of Geoff Raby courtesy of Australia Network News