Decision to summon Lee Kun-Hee could send wrong signals to foreign investors: Minister

The Government is exploring legal options to convince the Supreme Court to exempt Korean major Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-Hee from making a personal appearance before a trial court in Ghaziabad in a $1.4-million cheating case against the company.

The Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said on Friday that Kun-Hee should not have been summoned. “It is not good to summon the chairman of a multi-national company. It could send wrong signals to investors,” the Minister said talking to the media. The Government wants the apex court to allow a junior official from the company to appear before the trial court, an official from the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) told Business Line. “We are right now looking at how to go about it,” he said.

Trial court

The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, had asked Kun-Hee to present himself before the trial court to seek bail in the case or excuse from appearance in person within six weeks.

South Korea, which is a major investor in India, has big-ticket investment plans for the country, which may be hit if diplomatic relations turn sour because of the order, the Government fears. “South Korea is an important source of FDI for us and we do not want to upset the country. However, since it is the Supreme Ccourt that has issued the order, we have to move carefully,” the official said.

The Ministries of External Affairs and the Commerce Ministry are helping the DIPP look at the best way out. Sharma had called a meeting of Secretaries from the MEA, Commerce Ministry and the DIPP to discuss the case and explore possible solutions on Wednesday.

The $1.4-million payment case was filed by Samsung’s Indian suppliers JCE Consultancy in 2002 that had alleged that Kun-Hee had not made a payment, due from one of Samsung’s Dubai-based subsidiaries.

Samsung, in a statement issued on Wednesday evening, clarified that it has no relation with the case in which the Supreme Court has directed its Chairman Lee Kun-Hee to appear before a Ghaziabad court.

‘No evidence’

“There are no grounds, let alone evidence, to support the accusation against Chairman Lee. Chairman Lee is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the many overseas subsidiaries of Samsung. We are confident that the Indian courts will recognise the innocence of Chairman Lee and deliver justice,” the statement said.

(This article was published on April 4, 2014)
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