Power slips from Pinochet cronies as Chile's lithium giant reboots board

miércoles 22 de abril de 2015 14:04 GYT

* Shareholders will vote for new SQM board on Friday in Santiago

* Some call for resignation of chairman and Pinochet aide Ponce

* Canada's Potash Corp yet to make decision on nominees

* SQM is top global supplier of lithium, iodine

By Rosalba O'Brien and Felipe Iturrieta

SANTIAGO, April 22 (Reuters) - The future of Chile's SQM, the world's biggest producer of key battery ingredient lithium, hangs in the balance this week as the chairman faces demands to resign and a new board is elected.

SQM , also an important supplier of iodine and other chemicals, was privatized in the 1980s under then-dictator Augusto Pinochet. His son-in-law at the time, Julio Ponce, bought up stakes that made him a billionaire and chairman of the firm.

But shortly after an insider-trading probe last year that saw Ponce and others fined by the regulator, the company has become mired in a fresh scandal over illicit campaign financing, largely of Pinochet's right-wing party the UDI.

The scandal has convulsed the political and business elite in Chile and already claimed the scalp of Patricio Contesse, SQM's chief executive, who was fired last month for refusing to cooperate with authorities.   Continuación...