March 13, 2019 / 4:41 PM / a year ago

Advantage Lithium CEO charged in college admissions scandal

BUENOS AIRES, March 13 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Advantage Lithium Corp, which is developing lithium projects in Argentina, has been arrested by U.S. authorities as part of a sweeping college admissions scheme that has ensnared dozens of high-profile people.

David Sidoo, 59, was arrested on March 8 and was charged with conspiracy to commit fraud for allegedly paying $200,000 to the scam’s mastermind, William “Rick” Singer, to arrange for people to take the SAT admissions test for his two sons, according to U.S. court documents reviewed by Reuters.

Sidoo has run Vancouver-based Advantage Lithium since 2016 and his arrest throws into question the company’s development plans.

The company is involved in several projects in Argentina, which sits atop of the “lithium triangle” on the country’s border with Chile and Bolivia, one of the world’s largest known lithium reserves. Lithium is a key ingredient used to make electric vehicle batteries.

The indictment against Sidoo details incidents between 2011 and February 2019, including thousands of dollars paid to people who were flown to Canada to secretly take admissions exams in place of his sons.

Falsified test results were sent to Yale University, Georgetown University, Chapman University and University of California-Berkeley, where his younger son was accepted, the indictment said.

Sidoo, a former member of the University of British Columbia’s board of governors, is also accused of paying to help other students in Florida and California cheat on admissions exams.

The company had seen Sidoo as key to its development efforts based on his track record. He built an oil producer and then sold it in 2010 for more than $600 million to Hess Corp.

Sidoo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. An Advantage Lithium spokesman did not immediately respond to calls and emailed requests for comment.

On March 7, one day before Sidoo’s arrest, the company doubled to more than 4.8 million tonnes the estimate for the amount of recoverable lithium at its flagship Cauchari project in Argentina’s Jujuy province.

Federal authorities have charged nearly 50 people, including actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, in the largest college admissions fraud scheme in U.S. history.

Prosecutors said at least $25 million was paid through the scam by wealthy people to get their children into elite universities. Singer, 58, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges related to running the scheme through his Edge College & Career Network. (Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; Additonal reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Ernest Scheyder and Phil Berlowitz)

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