NEW DELHI/SEOUL India's Supreme Court has ordered the chairman of Samsung Electronics, Lee Kun-hee, to appear before a local court within six weeks to avoid arrest in a decade-old dispute with a supplier over a $1.4 million payment.
A two-judge panel ruled on Monday that an arrest warrant issued against Lee by a local court in Ghaziabad, near New Delhi, would not be executed for six weeks, according to an order posted on the court's website.
Lee will have to appear before the local court and can seek bail and an exemption from further hearings, the Supreme Court judges ruled.
Lee, 72, is South Korea's richest man with a net worth of $11.2 billion, according to Forbes.
In a statement, Samsung said Lee had no connection with the case, which it said was related to a "multi-million dollar fraud scheme" perpetrated against a subsidiary in Dubai. Samsung declined to comment on whether Lee would appear in court.
"There are no grounds, let alone evidence, to support the accusation against Chairman Lee," the company said. "We are confident that the Indian courts will recognize the innocence of Chairman Lee and deliver justice."
The Supreme Court's verdict came after an appeal by Lee, who local media said had sought to have the criminal proceedings against him dropped. The Supreme Court dismissed his petition.
"We make it clear that we have not expressed any opinion in regard to the merit of the case," the panel of judges said in its order for Lee to appear.
The dispute dates back to 2001-2002 when an Indian company, JCE Consultancy, signed a pact to supply products to Sky Impex Ltd, which was to transfer the products to Samsung Gulf Electronics, Dubai, court documents showed.
JCE Consultancy filed a criminal complaint in 2005, saying it had not received payment, and named the Samsung unit and Lee among the accused.
(Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy and Miyoung Kim; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Matt Driskill)