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March 24, 2010
Posted: 1244 GMT

The trial of four Rio Tinto employees charged with bribery and stealing commercial secrets ended in Shanghai Wednesday, but it was unclear when a verdict would be reached.

The bribery trial took place in this Shanghai courtroom.

The bribery trial took place in this Shanghai courtroom.

Charged in the case are Stern Hu, an Australian citizen of Chinese origin who was the general manager of Rio Tinto's Shanghai office. Hu has been in detention for nine months, along with Rio Tinto's three Chinese employees - Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong. They are accused of taking bribes and stealing commercial secrets.

Rio Tinto, a British-Australian company, is one of the largest mining companies in the world. The case has raised fears of a government crackdown on foreign companies doing business in China.

The three-day trial was closed to foreign news organizations, hindering independent confirmation of developments. At the end of the first day of the trial on Monday, Zhai Jian - the lawyer for another defendant - said his client acknowledged receiving money, but said it was a gift or a loan - not a bribe.

In another case, the U.S. Justice Department charged Daimler with widespread violation of bribery laws over the course of a decade.

According to the documents, Daimler paid bribes to foreign officials in at least 22 countries between 1998 and 2008.

The documents described how the company tried to lure officials with everything from cash to job opportunities.

We'd like to know what you think.

When is a gift considered a bribe? Is bribery a natural part of doing business? What should happen to officials charged with bribery?

Filed under: Business •Quest Means Business


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MissPhareedah   March 24th, 2010 12:53 pm ET

A gift is considered bribery when you give to get a favor back. Bribery is a natural part of business because business is about getting and sometimes in order to get you give (which can be perceived as bribery).

As to what should happen to officials charged with bribery, it should be judged on a case by case basis. If the favor gotten back doesn't harm anyone, then we shouldn't waste resources judging such cases..

Gregory K   March 24th, 2010 1:14 pm ET

We are not living in a perfect world.
Bribery is part of our daily life . Even a tip in some extent could be considered as a bribe.
You can call it corruption if you want .
It is based on the human instinct of "surviving" and "greedy" thats why is impossible to eliminate

George Sakoulas   March 24th, 2010 2:16 pm ET

Gratuity is a thanks for exceeding expectations. I believe that the two should be clearly defined and that something similar in business to help "grease the wheels" is not a problem and even expected in some cultures. However it can sometimes have the opposite effect especially when its in the form of a bride to win a contract. In that case it is clear cut corruption since it compromises the integrity of a bidding process. If, as was allegedly the case with Siemens AG in Greece during the Olympics, the contracts are State contracts it most surely should not be considered a 'gift'. Having said that both givers and receivers of brides or gifts should be scrutinized equally.

lauratheexpat   March 24th, 2010 2:31 pm ET

One person's "bribery" is another's "honorarium." Just like scalping a ticket can be a "including a finder's fee." The bottom line is that's it's in the eye of the beholder, and the beholder usually is the one calling the shots. China's calling the shots here, and China's going to define it however it wants.

ana petrov   March 24th, 2010 3:12 pm ET

It depends in which country/political system you live. Somewhere, it´s a rule and you must accept that, in otherwise you must take the responsibility for a consequences. Somewhere, it is not not allowed.
In any case, choice is your´s (from which ,btw,completely depends a yours´ life style) and a consequences also. So, all you need to do is a good estimation of the whole situation!

nchy   March 24th, 2010 4:46 pm ET

An act of giving for a favor is considered bribery if the favor is illegal. But like what lauratheexpat said, "One person's "bribery" is another's "honorarium."

Give and take in business is natural. But judging if it's bribery or not will depend on the context of the deal.

Esra Tuba Mutlu   March 24th, 2010 4:50 pm ET

Gift is given without any expectation of gain, otherwise it is not a gift.

Ajay   March 24th, 2010 7:17 pm ET

Well thats simple, Its a gift as long as you don't get caught 😉

On a serious note, its very hard. You are in a position of power and a new company wants the contract, the guys will pamper you. There is a thin line between genuine "goodwill" gifts and bribe.

The only way to tackle this is by having a policy about gifts set at the top management level with instructions for all managers.

Will Green   March 24th, 2010 10:53 pm ET

BAE, Siemens, Daimler to name just a few such incidents in recent times.
It is cristal clear: this is how business works. And what is really funny is that when a high profile company is clearly proven guilty of such practice they just bribe the ones that caught them. Simple as that. Pay a fine, get away. All is in the past.
This is tolarated interstate corruption on a global scale.
Combine this with cartel -like practice (common in any industry you can think about) and you will see that media or governments for instance have no relevance or influence on what really happens in business worldwide. It is all just a front. The real deal is always in the back.

THERESA   March 25th, 2010 11:30 am ET

I don't know.

General person   March 25th, 2010 12:08 pm ET

According to CNN: "Hu is accused of receiving two bribes: one for 1 million yuan ($146,490) and another for 5.3 million yuan ($790,000)."

If the amount is true, the common sense tells me that they are not sound like gift.

Deepti   March 25th, 2010 1:08 pm ET

Not only bribe(gifts or money), but also influence or networking is also used as a tool 'to get the things done'. Most of American companies have hired local companies in developing nations to get things done their ways or pace. A country is ready to pass a bill such as to minimize 'Nuclear Liability' (to minimize the compensation on foreign companies especially US ones, in case of a nuclear mishap) or to buy weapons (we know from whom!!) or to allow GM seeds (even if company's original market/location has not accepted yet)- What will we make of that system. Most of low ranked officials in corrupt systems generally cite the reason of their behavior as the byproduct of their leaders behavior.

Anil   April 2nd, 2010 8:20 am ET

I traditionally believed that bribery was restricted to government organizations, but i think in India there is lot this happening even in the corporate world.

The procurement and recruitment departments in companies are the perfect examples where there is thriving corruption and bribery. For example,in India if you refer a friend for an opening in your company through the employee referral program, chances are very less that the person in question will get an interview call, however if the same CV comes from a recruiting agency things are quite different.

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   April 2nd, 2010 12:43 pm ET

In my book........BRIBERY equals CORRUPTION.........in any form. Maybe, I'm being a bit too harsh here......or not?

A GIFT should never be considered as BRIBERY! I consider a gift is something which is given freely (and usually from one's heart).......with no returns from it........WHATSOEVER!

As the saying goes...........LIKE A GIFT FROM GOD!

Otugo abel from abuja   April 7th, 2010 11:23 pm ET

A gift is consider to be a bribe when the giver is expecting a favor from the receiver.coz giving is unspoken request.

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