Blood and money: Rio Tinto's $5 million Kissinger of death for Stern Hu

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The squalid pact signed in blood and money between mining and political behemoths Rio Tinto and Henry Kissinger will surprise no-one given the destructive conjunction of their parallel lives upon humanity and the environment. This week, Rio Tinto appears before the Senate Inquiry into Corporate Tax Avoidance. In the first part of this speaking truth to power investigation for IA, Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence exhumes some of the corpses buried in the tailings swill of history that Kissinger, Rio Tinto and their collaborators would prefer stay buried.


FOR SOME BETRAYAL COMES at the price of 30 pieces of silver.

For Rio Tinto it cost a mere $5 million for absolution from war crimes candidate, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, to wash its filthy tentacles of executive Stern Hu

In 2009, Hu was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment on bribery, corruption and industrial espionage charges and is now languishing abandoned in a Chinese prison.

Hu confessed to the bribery charges on the understanding he would receive a light sentence and soon be able to button up his onesies back home in Australia.

To repay his loyalty, Rio Tinto sacked him. Henry had given Hu the notorious Kissinger of death.


On Sunday, John Garnaut, Fairfax Media's hardworking Asia Pacific Editor, revealed that the deserted Hu had made a personal plea to Prime Minister Tony Abbott to directly intercede for his early release with China's President Xi Jinping.

As if.

Australia has just given the tick to signing a memorandum of understanding to help establish the multi-million dollar China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

American President Barack Obama is furious that his attempt to dissuade Australia from doing so has been rebuffed.

He didn't have much luck with some of his other besties on this one either — Britain, France, Germany and Italy are all aboard the Golden Rickshaw.


From today onwards, Rio Tinto will be one of several multinationals who have already presented submissions to Parliament and will be questioned by the Senate Enquiry Committee into Corporate Tax Avoidance.

The rigour of those questions will be carefully monitored. As will the answers; many of them deeply buried in subsidiaries, associates, affillates, partnerships, alliances and more.

There is little doubt that Hu was also the hapless scapegoat for Rio Tinto's menage to fend off BHP-Billiton's greedy takeover bid, as well as Rio Tinto's spurning of Chinalco.

Both suitors like it rough. Clearly so does the not so coy Rio Tinto. It has form.


Marian Wilkinson's 2010 report 'Chinese Whispers' for the ABC's Four Corners program reveals much of the behind the scenes skullduggery and counter claims of corporate espionage.

In her words from the transcript:

The price rise was driven by the booming world economy, but it was also being stoked by BHP-Billiton - Rio Tinto's long time rival in the iron ore business.

In 2007, BHP's new chief executive, Marius Kloppers, had two ambitions. One was to get more money for the company's iron ore. The other was to take over its rival Rio Tinto, creating the biggest single iron ore supplier in the world.

...China reacted swiftly to the audacious BHP play. China's state owned aluminium company, Chinalco, moved to thwart BHP's takeover by buying up a strategic slice of Rio Tinto in a deal with Alcoa.

A Chinalco representative confirms to Wilkinson:

"As you know we announced last Friday we have bought a 12 per cent stake in Rio Tinto."

(Click on the image to watch Chinese on the ABC Four Corners website)

Chinalco still owns that stake.

But wait, there's more.


On Christmas Eve last year, The Australian's China correspondent, Scott Murdoch, revealed that Chinalco boss Sun Zhaoxue had been kicked out of Communist Party.

THE former general manager of Chinalco, one of China’s largest state owned enterprises which owns a 10 per cent stake in Rio Tinto, has been kicked out of the Chinese Communist Party and faces a number of high level corruption and adultery charges.

You didn't have to read a Chinese fortune cookie to see that one coming.

Sounds like China could have hired the corporate gunslinger Henry Kissinger as well! Wouldn't put it past 'ol Henry to be doing a bit of double-dealing. His right hand always knows what the wrong hand is doing.


There is surely rancid irony in the fact that an overpaid corporate assassin like Kissinger is effectively being paid blood money to appease and ameliorate any fallout of the Stern Hu affair that might impinge on Rio Tinto's dealings with China. 

Rio Tinto, the U.S., China and Australia are little more than corporate psychopaths when it comes to selling out human beings in exchange for the mighty dollar or mightier yuan.

The company has cut Hu loose. No longer does it have any moral or legal responsibility for him. Or so it seems. But is this all a ruse? Will Hu be well rewarded for keeping his trap shut and taking the rap for senior management ?


Buddies on Rio Tinto's Board are white and waspish and have names like the UK's impeccably credentialed life peer, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard and his fellow "former" diplomat Australia's Michael L'Estrange, until last year Head of College of the National Security College at the Australian National University.

And then there's a director of death peddlars British Tobacco, the imploringly named Ann Godbehere and, disappointingly, Rhodes scholar and former Carlton footy award-winning Captain, Mike Fitzpatrick, surely punching below his weight and emotional intelligence working for the likes of Rio Tinto.

The toothy grin of Anne Lauvergeon (Image via

Then there's Julie Bishop lookalike, director Anne Lauvergeon, who is a physics whizz and the only woman to run a nuclear energy company. She has nice bared white teeth and was chief executive officer of AREVA Group from 2001 to 2011.


"Atomic Anne's" biography on Rio Tinto's website strangely doesn't mention a word about the fact that AREVA suspended payment of her €1.5m severance package or laud her nuclear first.

Tony Barber, Europe Editor for the Financial Times put it this way at the time:

Ostensibly, Areva is awaiting the results of various official investigations into an expensive and highly controversial acquisition made under Ms Lauvergeon’s leadership. Tempted by visions of ever climbing world uranium prices, Areva paid $2.5bn in 2007 for UraMin, a Canada-based company. At that time UraMin was thought to be sitting on abundant deposits of the heavy metal, essential to nuclear energy production, in central and southern Africa.

But after it emerged that UraMin’s uranium assets were smaller and less easily recoverable than anticipated, Areva took a €1.46bn writedown last month on its investment. This came on top of a €426m provision in 2010. Whichever way you cut it, the purchase of UraMin was a shocker of a deal.

There appears to be some revisionism on the web in relation to Ms Lauvergeon's activities and controversial professional career.

But from Wikipedia a curious snippet:

In 16 October 2009, Lauvergeon addressed journalists outside the “Women’s Forum” organised in Deauville. She declared: “To be clear, with same competences, sorry, we will choose the woman or something else rather than the white male.” She said these words during the France 2 evening news.[10][11][12] This statement generated reaction and was chosen as an example by Éric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen to explain that positive discrimination was a kind of racism.

And this:

On 16 June 2011 François Fillon, the French Prime minister, announced that Anne Lauvergeon's mandate as head of Areva, terminating end of June 2011, would not be renewed.

IA understands matters concerning this Rio Tinto director and Areva are still ongoing.


Last June in the Financial Times Michael Stothard revealed that

France’s financial prosecutor has searched the headquarters of state-controlled nuclear group Areva in an escalating investigation into the $2.5bn acquisition of Canadian uranium mining company UraMin.

The prosecutors on Tuesday searched the offices in Paris’ La Defense district for evidence of suspected criminal offences related to Areva’s ill-fated UraMin acquisition in 2007, which led to a €1.6bn writedown four years later.

The search follows a scathing report, which was leaked to the French media in May, by the Cour des Comptes, France’s public auditor. It was critical of decisions made by former chief executive Anne Lauvergeon, finding the company had mishandled the acquisition.

The Cour des Comptes conducted an audit of Areva’s accounts between 2006 and 2012, and has since referred the case to the prosecutors, who have started their own preliminary investigation.

“We have been the object of a search by the financial prosecutor following a referral by the state auditor. The company has been co-operating for weeks,” said Areva....


Last September we learnt from Fairfax Media that, in our own backyard, the

French government-controlled Areva – the world's biggest nuclear company – is understood to be planning legal action against the Australian government over a decision last year to veto mining at its multibillion-dollar Koongarra uranium deposit by including it in the Kakadu National Park.

Sacre yellowcake!

These directors and their fellow board members bear equal shame for employing the likes of the soiled Henry Kissinger.

His appointment tells us much about Rio Tinto's coporate culture and the fanciful notion of any real sense of corporate social responsibility or ethical attendance to its operations. Rio Tinto's CSR is a cruel joke and travesty of justice.


Hu was in the habit of sending the illegally obtained intelligence to his masters at Rio Tinto HQ. So were they complicit in this squalid affair?

Just for starters, Rio Tinto's corporate culture has long been infected with the likes of corruption, racism, murder, slave labour and direct military and political interference. These transgressions are well beyond gestation allegations. They are established facts.

Hu was the head of Rio Tinto's Shanghai office. As far as we are aware, neither Hu nor the three other Rio Tinto employees convicted alongside him, have been responsible for killing anyone, either directly or indirectly.

Which is more than can be said about Kissinger or his corporate alma pater, Rio Tinto. The pair make "perfect" partners in war crimes. They surely know where the bodies are buried, deep inside their fatted wallets.


Namibia is a case in point. Rio Tinto abused the "natives" and their resources in vile ways and in habitual fashion colluded with the militia.

Rio Tinto also shamelessly indulges in economic apartheid as well and still promulgates the repugnant and colonial racism inherent in imposing lesser royalties upon less powerful and desperately poor countries.

As the London Mining Network asked 

...why is the Government of Madagascar only receiving royalties of 2% when other African Governments receive rates around 12%?

It is a blatant case of the uber rich robbing the poor.

On January 29 this year, the influential human rights activist group Code Pink twice intererrupted the Armed Services Senate Committee hearing on global threats and national security strategy, in attempts to execute a citizen's arrest on Henry Kissinger for war crimes relating to Chile, Vietnam, East Timor, Cambodia, and Laos.


In 2011, the U.S. Federal Appeals Court reversed a lower court's dismissal of claims against Rio Tinto for genocide and war crimes related to the Bougainville Island copper (Panguna Mine) and gold mines it once operated.

The ABC reported:

Steve Berman, a lawyer for the Rio Tinto plaintiffs, said: "My clients believe Rio has been covering up its complicity in war crimes and genocide. We're pleased to be able to return to the district court and begin proving our case."

Writing for the 9th Circuit, Judge (Mary) Schroeder said the complaint's allegation that Rio Tinto's "worldwide modus operandi" was to treat indigenous non-Caucasians as "expendable" justified restoring the genocide claim to the case.

She also said the allegation that Rio Tinto acted for its own private ends in inducing Papua New Guinea's military to murder civilians justified restoring the war crimes claim.

The same year, on the SBS Dateline program, in a powerful segment entitled Blood and Treasure, Brian Thomson uncovered documuments further incriminating Rio Tinto's sleazy activities in Bougainville and tacit interference in PNG politics and the military.

Appearing on camera, former PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare backed up the Thomson team's award-winning (UN Media Peace Prize) revelations.


However, in 2013, Bloomberg reported that:

Rio Tinto Plc, the world’s second-biggest mining company, won dismissal of a lawsuit in the U.S. accusing it of contributing to genocide in Papua New Guinea.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco today affirmed a lower court’s ruling dismissing the case. The appeals court’s decision was prompted by an April 22 order by the U.S. Supreme Court, which in a separate case brought against Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) had scaled back application of the 1789 Alien Tort Statute.

That law, also invoked in the Rio Tinto case, has been a favorite tool of human-rights advocates seeking to hold companies responsible in U.S. courts for atrocities overseas.

The lawsuit against London-based Rio Tinto stems from the deaths of thousands of indigenous people starting in 1988 on the island of Bougainville, where Rio Tinto was part of a group operating the world’s largest open copper pit.

The case is Sarie v. Rio Tinto Plc, 02-56256, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco.)

In response to this legal setback, the tenacious lawyers for the plaintiffs made it clear they have no intention of backing down.

Just as well, since for several years Rio Tinto has mounted a multi-layered campaign, much of it covert, to reopen the Bougainville Mine, ripping the scabs of old wounds that have never healed.


April 24, 2013: Hagens Berman managing partner Steve Berman today commented on the Supreme Court’s order vacating the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Sarei v. Rio Tinto (No. 11-649). The case will now move back to the Ninth Circuit.

“The Court’s decision is disappointing and a complete reversal of well-established precedent spanning several decades. But the battle isn’t over.  We will continue to advance our case on behalf of our clients as we have for more than a decade. Like all civilized nations, the United States and its courts have long recognized the universal obligation to hold accountable those who commit the most deplorable human rights violations wherever they are committed. This was true before the Supreme Court’s decision and remains true today.” 

Hagens Berman's landmark case exposes startling facts and behaviour by Rio Tinto that, in some aspects, bear remarkable similarities to what happened during one of Kissinger's military games played with live humans — the Vietnam War.


This chilling investigative case brief comes from their website:

To build the mine, Rio chemically defoliated, bulldozed and sliced off an entire mountainside of rain forest.

During the years of the mine's operations, billions of tons of toxic mine waste was generated and dumped onto the land and into pristine waters, filling major rivers with tailings, polluting a major bay dozens of miles away, and the Pacific Ocean as well. As a result of its flagrant disregard for the environment and the people of Bougainville, Rio dispossessed the people of Bougainville from their land, destroyed their culture and polluted their environment and lifestyle.

Rio destroyed previously pristine rivers and land that provided substance and a way of life for the native people and went to the heart of their local culture. The pollution is so extensive that plaintiffs and members of the class have been improperly exposed to toxic chemicals. In certain villages, the chemicals still remaining have caused the death and/or illness of residents.

Rio's actions on Bougainville were so egregious that they sparked an uprising designed to close the mine. When the uprising succeeded, Rio and the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government brought troops in to reopen the mine. Rio provided transport for these troops.

It continues:

After initial unsuccessful efforts, the PNG government, as the agent of or co-venturer of Rio and with the support and encouragement of Rio, instituted a military blockade of the island that lasted for almost ten years. The purpose of the military blockade was to coerce the Bougainville people into surrender so that the mine could be reopened. Both Rio and PNG made enormous profits from the mine and were anxious for it to operate, notwithstanding the resistance of the island's people.

The blockade prevented medicine, clothing and other essential items from reaching the people of Bougainville. Hospitals were forced to close, women died needlessly in childbirth and young children died from easily preventable diseases. Rio's top manager on Bougainville encouraged continuation of the blockade for the purpose of "starving the bastards" out. This blockade directly caused the deaths of at least 10,000 people between 1990 and 1997.

According to the Red Cross, the blockade killed more than 2,000 children in its first two years of operation. By the time the war ended in 1999, 10% of the population of Bougainville, approximately 15,000 civilians, were killed.

The action alleges that Rio's conduct violated customary international law, including prohibitions against destruction of the right to life and health, and prohibitions against racial discrimination and war crimes. Rio's conduct violated the settled standards for the protection of human rights and the environment recognized by customary international law and United States legal precedent. The plaintiffs seek redress under the federal Alien Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.C. 1350).


Clearly, “starving the bastards out” was no idle threat by Rio Tinto. One of the bastards they wanted to starve out was the Panguna Chief Philip Miriori. The Panguna Mine was among the world's larger mines. 

Panguna chief Philip Miriori is allegedly one of the bastards that Rio allegedly wanted to starve out. He is one of the named plaintiffs - one of the few still alive. Philip's story is told on page six of the claim, his father lost his life as a result of injuries he received in 1964 when an empty 44 gallon drum was allegedly hurled at him from an airborne helicopter operated by Rio Tinto.

Nice one Rio Tinto.

Only last week, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) passed a bill to again allow mining in Bougainville.

There is little doubt that Rio Tinto, with its controlling stake in Bougainville Copper, is angling to reopen the mine(s) in Bougainville, despite its horrendous abuse of of indigenous workers and contempt for the notion of human rights and its share in the responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands of human beings to say nothing of the poisoning of the land.

But money talks. Loudly. Its chatter and clatter drown out the screams of the dying and those who mourn the dead.

More to come

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