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Guinean mining minister claiming Rio Tinto offered bribes now implicated in US

Mahmoud Thiam, Guinea's former mining minister who claimed that Rio Tinto offered him bribes, has been charged in the U.S. with laundering bribes from an unnamed Chinese company, The Australian Financial Review reported Dec. 14.

According to the prosecutors, Thiam received US$8.5 million from the Chinese company, which was seeking control over Guinea's mining sectors as well as exclusive rights over other sectors of the country's economy.

The complaint by the FBI alleges that Thiam opened an account in Hong Kong to receive the bribe money and then moved the money to a New York account.

Thiam also reportedly forwarded money to at least one other unnamed official of the West African government.

In mid-November, Thiam claimed that Steven Din, the head of Rio Tinto's Guinea operation, offered him a bribe in early 2010 to gain control of the other half of the Simandou iron ore property from billionaire investor Beny Steinmetz's BSG Resources Ltd.

Following allegations that Rio Tinto had paid bribes to Guinea government officials to gain control of the other half of the Simandou project, BSG recently accused Rio Tinto of contributing to the loss of its mining rights for Simandou and demanded compensation.