A Chinese-Australian executive of Rio Tinto has been sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of accepting bribes and five years on charges of stealing commercial secrets.

Australian executive Stern Hu and three Chinese staff, who were tried last week in Shanghai, were convicted of accepting bribes totalling around $13m dollars and stealing trade secrets.

Hu, the head of the Anglo-Australian miner's Shanghai office, was sentenced to ten years in prison.

His Chinese colleagues Wang Yong, Ge Minqiang and Liu Caikui were given jail terms of 14, eight and seven years.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had said the world was watching the trial, which has been widely seen as a test of the rule of law in China and has sparked concerns about doing business in the world's third-largest economy.

The four had pleaded guilty to taking money and one had admitted to commercial espionage, but the accused had disputed aspects of the charges.

A prosecutor had recommended that Hu be given a lenient sentence after he apologised to the court and to Rio, saying he took more than $900,000 to help childhood friends in need.

The four Rio employees were arrested last July during contentious iron-ore contract talks between top mining companies and the steel industry in China, the world's largest consumer of the raw material. The talks collapsed.