Rio Tinto has formally sacked two of its key executives a week after they were suspended over leaked emails regarding a 2011 payment to an advisor of Guinean president Alpha Condé, relating to a potentially massive iron ore mine and rail project in the African country.
Rio announced on November 16 the contracts of its Energy & Minerals chief executive Alan Davies and Legal & Regulatory Affairs group executive Debra Valentine had both been terminated.
Davies and Valentine were suspended on November 9 when Rio contacted corruption authorities in the US, the UK and Australia as a result of the investigation into the legality of a US$10.5 million payment to former senior Lazard banker François Polge de Combret in 2011.
According to Bloomberg, de Combret was assisting Rio in negotiations towards a stake in the Simandou iron ore project, with his former classmate at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, Guinean president Alpha Condé.
Rio ended up winning a share of development rights for the $20 billion project, but major development is yet to take place, and Rio announced this October it would sell its stake in Simandou to Chinese metals business Chinalco.
While the Rio board said last week there was no evidence at this stage of any illegal activity, it said the emails showed both executives had failed in their respective duties.
“The board’s decision does not pre-judge the course of any external inquiries into this matter,” Rio said in a statement.
“However, the board concluded that the executives failed to maintain the standards expected of them under our global code of conduct …”
Davies has reportedly rejected this notion, saying he was surprised and disappointed by the actions of his former employer.
“I have not been privy to Rio Tinto’s internal investigation report, nor have I had any evidence of the reasons for my termination of my employment given,” Davies was quoted by the ABC.
“There are no grounds for the termination of my employment.
“Rio Tinto has made no effort to abide by due process or to respect my rights as an employee and it has given me no opportunity to answer any allegations.
“This treatment of me and my past and recent colleagues is totally at variance with the values and behaviours of the company to which I have devoted my professional life.”
Davies reportedly said he planned to “take the strongest possible legal action in response” to his treatment.