China's state secrets watchdog has accused mining multinational Rio Tinto of engaging in commercial spying for six years, at a huge loss to China.
A statement from Rio Tinto said that its four employees detained in China, accused of espionage, did nothing unethical and the company has denied they bribed Chinese steel mills for information.
But the report issued by China's National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets said Rio Tinto has been spying on China for the last six years and that this has caused Chinese steel companies to pay $122 billion too much for Australian iron ore.
The report says the large amount of intelligence and data from China's steel sector found on Rio Tinto's computers and the massive damage to the national economic security and interests are plainly obvious.
The report suggests the Chinese government could use the case as a springboard for tougher information controls on domestic and foreign businesses.