Richards is retiring from Rio Tinto at the end of this year.
Italian citizen Levi joined Novartis in 2004. She was general counsel at Novartis subsidiary Sandoz from 2016-2019 and was previously global legal head with Pharma. She was also head of the anti-bribery and corruption practice and trade sanctions practice teams, and head of legal and compliance, Africa, Middle East, Asian Countries, and for growth emerging markets, at Novartis.
Prior to joining Novartis, Levi worked for several years as a corporate and transactional attorney with law firms in New York City and Milan.
"Barbara has extensive legal experience across corporate, commercial and compliance matters gained within a complex multinational organisation which makes her an ideal choice to lead Rio Tinto's legal and compliance team. I am delighted to welcome her to Rio Tinto and look forward to having her join the executive team," Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques said.