New Zealand Prime Minister John Key reprimanded one of his ministers on Monday and forced him to abandon his ties with a company over a perceived conflict of interest on a recent private trip to India.
Key told a news conference that Minister of Internal Affairs Richard Worth had resigned his connections with a company that is trying to attract Indian student pilots to train in New Zealand.
Earlier, Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper reported that during a private visit as chairman of the India Trade Group last month, Worth made a speech at a formal ceremony expounding the virtues of New Zealand for aviation training.
Key said he had approved Worth's visit with a delegation, including two other legislators from his governing National Party, in the belief that no conflict of interest was involved.
"Had I been aware that Dr Worth was a shareholder and director of a company that had an interest in a company that stood to benefit from the visit I would not have approved the trip," he said.
Key also revealed that Trade Minister Tim Groser, who will lead negotiations on a proposed free trade pact with India, had also been a director of the company called New Zealand Aviation and had resigned earlier, recognising the potential conflict of interest.
Key said he did not believe that Worth had become a minister "for the purposes of feathering his own nest", but added: "It was unwise of him to embark on a trip and put himself in a position where the perception of such a conflict could arise."
He said Worth had resigned as a director and shareholder of New Zealand Aviation and as chairman of the India Trade Group, as well as a position of head of the New Zealand Korea Business Council.
Key said he warned ministers at his weekly cabinet meeting on Monday that "the line between their personal and ministerial responsibilities must remain clear" and private trips overseas should be solely holidays or risk blurring that line.