ECONOMY

SQM and Pablo Longueira – big business, big corruption

SANTIAGO – Former member of right-wing Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party, Pablo Longueira, is investigated for corruption after being linked to bribery in the Soquimich (SQM) case. The former minister is now facing charges that could result in a prison sentence. Longueira was presidential candidate in 2014.

Pablo Longueira appeared in the  Soquimich corruption case alongside many others. The case revolves around lithium mining and fertilizer company Soquimich’s illegal doings including tax fraud and illegal political campaign financing. Longueira and 17 other politicians and SQM executives are expecting their trial as prosecutor Pablo Gómez stated that the investigation is about to conclude.

Chile’s public minister notified that all the accused will be processed together in an oral trial under the same charge: illegal political financing. Former socialist senator Fulvio Rossi, Christian Democrat Jorge Pizarro, former presidential standard-bearer of the Progressive Party, Marco Enríquez-Ominami, and former ambassador and Christian Democrat Marcelo Rozas are to be charged.

Pablo Gómez, the regional prosecutor of Valparaíso, will ask for prison sentences for both, Longueira and former SQM director Patricio Contesse. According to news outlet El Mostrador, Longueira faces six years in prison for bribery and Contesse five years for tax fraud. Longueira pleaded not guilty. “During the oral trial, I will show with all my strength that I have never committed any crime,” said Longueira in a statement.

The economy prosecutor’s office looks into Tianqi-SQM deal

Helping with tax benefits

Longueiras’s ties with SQM appeared in 2016, when an email exchange from 2010 between him and Contesse was discovered. The communication showed that Longueira helped SQM to obtain a tax benefit in which the government would maintain a steady tax rate for a certain period.

In early 2010, Longueira sent Contesse a text he had previously received from Franco Devillaine, a prosecutor at the mining ministry at that time. The email specified the possibility of extending the tax benefit for mining projects to Chilean enterprises, even though it’s meant to apply only to foreign mining companies that operate in Chile.

Longueira was elected deputy in 1990. He worked in that capacity until he became senator in 2006. In 2011 he became economy minister and left the post at the end of April 2013 to run for president for the 2014-2018 term.

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