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Five Rio Tinto workers arrested for fraud at Quebec smelter

The Rio Tinto-Alcan plant is pictured near a residential area in the Arvida district of Saguenay.

Francis Vachon/The Globe and Mail

Five former workers at a Rio Tinto Group aluminum smelter in Quebec were arrested following a fraud investigation initiated by the company almost two years ago.

The alleged fraud involved fake invoices from a former subcontractor of the company, according to a statement Wednesday from Surete du Quebec, the police force in the Canadian province. The workers were allegedly paid bribes by the former subcontractor, police said. There is a warrant out for the arrest of a sixth former employee in the case.

Police have been investigating the matter since 2014, following an internal audit by Rio's Alcan unit, according to the statement.

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"Rio Tinto is collaborating with the provincial authorities with regards to this investigation," the company said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg News. "We will refrain from commenting further as the investigation is ongoing."

Rio said in March 2015 it had filed a formal complaint for fraud to local police, who it said were probing companies with business ties to Rio's Alcan division in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region.

Rio's Alma smelter began operating in 2000 and produced over 466,000 tons of primary aluminum last year.

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