WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s Internal Security Agency (ABW) has asked prosecutors to investigate copper miner KGHM (KGH.WA) over the purchase of a Canadian firm with metal deposits in Chile, the secret services minister said on Wednesday.
Minister Mariusz Kaminski said people who managed state-run KGHM from December 2010 until March 2012 may have inflicted a large loss upon the company, a crime punishable in Poland by up to 10 years in prison.
KGHM bought Quadra FNX for C$2.87 billion ($2.2 billion) in 2011, the largest ever foreign acquisition by a Polish company, gaining partial ownership of the Chilean Sierra Gorda copper mine. Kaminski did not name Quadra but gave details that identified it.
Herbert Wirth, KGHM chief executive at the time of Quadra purchase, told Reuters the board had conducted the transaction with due diligence. “This transaction had already been checked by the state treasury,” Wirth said.
KGHM’s purchase of Quadra, intended to boost output and help it become a global player, was questioned by the conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) which won last year’s election.
The new treasury minister launched an audit into whether KGHM’s investment in Sierra Gorda was justified.
A KGHM spokeswoman said she would not comment on the case which was being handled by the prosecutor’s office.
The spokeswoman for the regional prosecutor’s office in Wroclaw said she did not have information on whether the ABW’s request has been delivered.
Kaminski said in a statement that ABW has collected “material indicating a justified suspicion that a crime was committed in relation to the purchase of a Canadian company owning metal deposits in Chile”.
Kaminski said the AWB had documents that suggested KGHM made errors which led to it signing a “disadvantageous” deal.
A plunge in copper prices drove KGHM to a record loss of 5.01 billion zlotys ($1.3 billion) last year, much of it due to an impairment loss on Quadra’s Sierra Gorda copper mine, which KGHM co-owns with Japan’s Sumitomo (8053.T) (5713.T).
($1 = 3.8294 zlotys)
Reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Ruth Pitchford