Even Perry Mason couldn't have executed a surprising courthouse double-flip like this one. On Monday, with the world watching, four Rio Tinto
The four, who were detained in July, include one Chinese-born Australian national, Stern Hu, and three Chinese citizens. The foursome represented Rio Tinto's interests in the sale of iron ore -- a key ingredient in the manufacture of steel -- to Chinese steelmakers. They were first charged with stealing China's state secrets, but those charges were later reduced to stealing commercial secrets and taking bribes. But rather than staunchly declaring their innocence as the trial began, they shocked the world by all pleading guilty.
It was generally thought to be less than coincidental that their arrests occurred soon after their company had rejected a bid by Aluminum Corp. of China
Also in the major-coincidence department, the very day the employees' trial began, Rio CEO Tom Albanese was scheduled to speak at a development conference in Beijing along with Ford
But lest you think that Rio Tinto and China are at swords' points and will likely remain so, on Friday the two announced a joint venture for the Simandou iron-ore project in Guinea. Rio currently owns 95% of the project, but for $1.35 billion will sell 47% of its stake -- or 44.65% of the total -- to Chinalco. The remaining 5% is owned by International Finance Corp.
As you probably know, Rio, Vale
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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the named companies above. He does, however, welcome your questions and comments. Ford Motor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Fool has a disclosure policy that's been well cured.