In a short statement released yesterday, the group pointed out that it self-reported a questionable payment to the SFO and other authorities, including the US Department of Justice and the Australian Federal Police, last November, and had been working with them since then.
The payment came to light in leaked emails dating from 2011 in which Alan Davies, the then head of Rio’s energy and minerals division, discussed with senior colleagues a payment of $10.5m (£8m) made to former Lazards banker François Polge de Combret for negotiating with the Guinea government over Simandou, one of the world’s largest untapped iron ore deposits.
At the time of the payment, Davies was responsible for the Simandou project.
After an internal investigation, Rio sacked him along with Debra Valentine, Rio Tinto’s head of legal affairs. The group is currently in the process of selling its 46.6% stake in the mine.
The SFO said that it would be looking into the activities of the “group, its employees and others associated with it” in Guinea. And it appealed for anyone with relevant information to get in contact.