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Report: Swiss prosecutors not targeting Rio Tinto in Mongolia bribery probe

Swiss prosecutors are not investigating Rio Tinto in connection with bribery allegations related to the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project in Mongolia, the Financial Times reported March 28, citing a letter from the Swiss Office of the Attorney-General.

This follows a statement by Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques to Bloomberg News that Swiss authorities did not make any contact with the company.

"Currently, the investigation is directed neither against your client nor against any of client's employees," the letter read.

Reuters recently cited an email from the Office of the Attorney-General saying that Swiss authorities were probing Rio Tinto's involvement.

Authorities are probing a frozen bank account tied to former Mongolian Finance Minister Bayartsogt Sangajav that the Mongolian Anti-Corruption Authority says could have been used to pay a bribe.

Rio Tinto holds an interest in Oyu Tolgoi through its 50.8% stake in Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd., which owns 66% of Oyu Tolgoi.

Earlier in the month, Turquoise Hill received a request from Mongolian authorities to disclose certain information related to a potential abuse of power by officials during talks about a 2009 investment deal. At the time of signing, Rio Tinto owned 10% of Turquoise Hill, and later lifted its stake to 51%.

In January, Oyu Tolgoi received a tax assessment of approximately US$155 million from the Mongolian Tax Authority.

Despite the probe, Rio Tinto's US$5.3 billion expansion plan for Oyu Tolgoi, which aims to boost copper output to 560,000 tonnes per annum between 2025 and 2030, remains on track.

Apart from the Oyu Tolgoi issue, Rio Tinto is facing fraud charges in the U.S. in connection with a Mozambique coal deal, while the Australian Securities and Investments Commission started legal proceedings against the company and its two former executives over the same case.

The company is also under investigation by the U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office examining in connection with its dealings in Guinea over the Simandou iron ore project.