The three board members of Soc. Quimica Y Minera de Chile SA named to represent major shareholder Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. quit last night as prosecutors fight to access the Chilean company's books.
Potash Corp. owns 32 percent of Santiago-based SQM and its representatives have clashed with directors backed by controller Julio Ponce Lerou over how to approach the case, with Potash's directors insisting the company comply with prosecutors.
Patricio Contesse Gonzalez, who was SQM's chief executive officer until Monday, won a court ruling on Tuesday to stop SQM's offices being raided as part of a tax and campaign-funding probe until at least March 25. The three representatives of Potash Corp, North America's largest potash producer, were Jose Maria Eyzaguirre, Alejandro Montero and Potash Chief Financial Officer Wayne Brownlee.
Ponce controls SQM, a major potash producer and the world's largest maker of lithium and iodine, through a complex network of holding companies. He was fined $70 million in September for illegal trading in shares between the companies.
Contesse will be replaced by his deputy Patricio de Solminihac, the Santiago-based company said in a statement Monday, without giving a reason for his departure.
Prosecutors are investigating whether an alleged payment by SQM to the sister-in-law of Pablo Wagner was used to fund a senatorial election campaign in 2009. Wagner, who went on to become deputy mining minister in 2010, is in custody awaiting trial for charges of receiving bribes as part of a wider case involving the financial group, Penta.