Ex-Rio CEO Walsh says no fear of truth amid Guinea scandal: media

FILE PHOTO: Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh poses during a photo call to announce his company's 2015 interim results in London, Britain August 6, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Ex-Rio Tinto <RIO.L chief executive officer Sam Walsh said on Wednesday he does not ‘fear the truth’ of investigations into millions of dollars in payments made in 2011 to help secure iron ore mining acreage in Guinea, Australian media reported.

Speaking at a leadership forum in Brisbane, Walsh sought to address $10.5 million payments Rio Tinto made to a political advisor in Guinea, which he labeled the “elephant in the room”, the Australian Financial Review reported on its website.

“Some of you no doubt may be asking ‘How can this chap lecture us about leadership when he has been caught up in some investigation around mining rights in Guinea, West Africa’,” Walsh said.

A transcript of the speech was not immediately available.

“On this I would just say that, notwithstanding some of innuendo from our friends in the media, the company has not made any accusation against me personally, nor do I expect that there will be,” Walsh said, according to the newspaper.

“I operated ethically and legally at all times during my 25 years at Rio,” he said.

Rio Tinto in March deferred for at least two years a decision on Walsh’s performance-related pay as the investigation unfolds.

The scandal erupted in November after Rio Tinto become aware of emails from 2011 that referred to the payments in connection with the vast Simandou iron ore project.

Walsh became embroiled when the emails showed Rio Tinto executive Alan Davies asking permission from Walsh and then-Rio Tinto chief executive officer Tom Albanese to make the payment to advisor Francois de Combre.

Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Christian Schmollinger