(Adds Orocobre comment)
By Ernest Scheyder and Cassandra Garrison
March 14 (Reuters) - Advantage Lithium Corp said on Thursday it has temporarily replaced Chief Executive David Sidoo as he battles U.S. fraud charges connected to a sweeping college admissions scandal.
The company has named board member Callum Grant, an engineer by training, as interim president and said it would move forward with plans to develop an Argentine lithium deposit.
Sidoo also stepped down as president and CEO of Vancouver-based East West Petroleum on Thursday.
Sidoo, 59, was arrested last Friday and charged with conspiracy to commit fraud for allegedly paying $200,000 to the scam’s accused 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 plans to travel to a Massachusetts court to face the charges, according to his attorney, Richard Schonfeld, who requested that “people don’t rush to judgment in the meantime.”
Lithium is a key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries and a plethora of smaller miners have launched projects in recent years to supply the white metal to Tesla Inc, Volkswagen AG and other automakers.
Ford Motor Co, the second-largest U.S. automaker, said earlier this week it was considering inking supply deals with a lithium producer.
Canada-based Advantage Lithium has undertaken a series of engineering studies necessary to move forward on development of its Cauchari lithium deposit, though it has yet to say when the project could come online.
Sidoo had been actively meeting with investors, analysts, regulators and others to promote the company. It was not immediately clear how his exit would affect development plans.
“All plans are the same to put Advantage into production at some point,” spokesman Max Sali told Reuters on Thursday.
Orocobre, Advantage Lithium’s largest shareholder, acknowledged Sidoo’s temporary leave of absence in a statement.
The company’s Argentine project is located near similar projects run by Lithium Americas Corp and Orocobre. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder and Cassandra Garrison; Additional reporting by Nia Williams and Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Chang)