Five former Rio Tinto employees at Quebec smelter arrested for fraud

MONTREAL – Five former Rio Tinto aluminum employees in Quebec have been charged with fraud resulting from an internal investigation launched by the company almost two years ago.

The five arrested and released in Alma on Wednesday were allegedly paid bribes at their homes after setting up a system of false invoices with a former company subcontractor, said the Quebec provincial police.

Sgt. Melanie Dumaresq said the investigation is continuing and more arrests are possible.

The police are examining the links between the employees and the subcontractor, which has not been charged.

The police investigation involving more than a dozen officers started in December 2014 following an internal audit conducted by Rio Tinto’s smelter operations in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.

“Rio Tinto is collaborating with the provincial authorities with regards to this investigation. We will refrain from commenting further as the investigation is ongoing,” the company said in an email.

The global miner’s aluminum division notified employees of the investigation in an internal note sent in March 2015.

“Rio Tinto will not tolerate any gesture of fraudulent activity within its organization. We will take any actions necessary to ensure that such behaviour does not occur,” it said in the note.

Published reports at the time said eight union and non-union Rio Tinto employees were fired, although one supervisor’s firing was overturned by a labour board tribunal in August and substituted with a three-month suspension.

Rio Tinto acted six months after receiving an anonymous tip sent to its head of operations, the RCMP and revenue agencies for Quebec and Canada, according to the ruling on the employee’s reinstatement.

Each suspected employee was questioned by an independent firm specializing in these matters that was hired by the company.

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