UPDATE 1-Potash Corp trio resign from SQM board as Chilean scandal deepens

miércoles 18 de marzo de 2015 08:59 GYT
 

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SANTIAGO, March 18 (Reuters) - Chilean fertilizer group SQM said the three representatives on its board from Canadian stakeholder Potash Corp resigned on Tuesday evening in the midst of a campaign financing scandal that has shaken the Chilean establishment.

SQM Vice Chairman Wayne Brownlee, who is also chief financial officer of Potash Corp, and directors Jose Maria Eyzaguirre and Alejandro Montero stepped down from the board, SQM said in a statement on Wednesday, without giving reasons.

The development is the latest twist in an illicit campaign financing saga that has dominated headlines in recent weeks in Chile, traditionally seen as having less corruption than elsewhere in Latin America.

Authorities are investigating whether money from SQM and other companies was siphoned off to fund electoral campaigns, principally for the right-wing UDI, a party with links to the 1973-1990 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.

Late Monday SQM said that it fired its chief executive officer and that it would comply with demands from the government's internal revenue service to hand over tax information.

Potash Corp , the world's largest fertilizer company by market value, owns an approximate 32 percent stake in the dual share structure of SQM , which has rights to huge nitrates and lithium reserves in Chile.

As a result, the Canadian firm has the right to three of the eight voting seats on the board.

Potash could not immediately be reached for comment, but Eyzaguirre appeared to hint at problems beyond the tax probe, telling local newspaper El Mercurio: "Beyond SQM and its investigation, Chile today does not have the conditions for the company to do what it has to." (Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)