The remark was made by his lawyer Vijay Aggarwal in response to the income tax (I-T) department’s opposition to Li’s bail plea. The department had asked the court to reject the plea. In the film My name is Khan, the star’s character says: “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”
The department told the court that India does not have an extradition treaty with China and if the CEO leaves for that country, it would “be very difficult” to bring him back. The investigation is not yet complete, the department said in its affidavit, which has been seen by ET.
The department posted the affidavit in response to a plea filed by Li seeking the quashing of a look-out circular issued against him by the income tax department. A look-out circular, or LOC, prevents a person from travelling abroad. Authorities use it to prevent people accused in criminal cases from leaving the country; they typically only find out about such curbs against them at the airport.
Objecting to the department’s demand, Aggarwal said it was “disturbing” that the department was opposing bail in a bailable offence. Claiming that the LOC issued against Li is misuse of power, Aggarwal added that such a curb can only be issued for a cognisable offence. The offence allegedly involving Li is a non-cognisable offence, he argued.
The court verbally observed that it would have to examine safeguards to ensure that Li returns to India if allowed to visit China. “What if tomorrow he flies (to China) and never returns?”
Verdict Next Week
The bench enquired about Li’s annual salary and asked his lawyer to ensure that two sureties, both Indian nationals, are arranged by next week when the court will pronounce its judgement. The court also enquired about relatives and assets that Li has in India.
Upon the court’s query, Li’s counsel volunteered seven-day advance intimation to the I-T department before leaving the country.
In its affidavit, the income tax department said that the LOC against the CEO was “correct and as per the provisions of law.” The department said that there are “no grounds for LOC to be revoked in the present scenario.”
The affidavit added that “rights of an individual needs to be balanced with safeguarding the interest of the prosecuting and investigating agencies. Foremost in the present case would be the economic interest of the country.”
The department further submitted that during the search operations in February of premises belonging to the CEO and other staff of Huawei, they “wilfully skirted” compliance and indulged in shifting the “responsibility/accountability to the next shoulder.”
The department alleged that the documents submitted by Huawei are “thoroughly insufficient to ascertain the veracity of various claims made in the returns of income and determine appropriate arm’s length price of the substantial related party transactions undertaken by the company in absence of the prescribed books of accounts.”
It further said that the “discrepancies in linkages of ERP (enterprise resource planning) data submitted with the final financials of the company, itself establishes a deliberate and wilful attempt on the part of the company and the persons responsible for its affairs including the CEO for not having granted access as mandated under the statute.”
ET was the first to report on May 25 that Li, a Chinese national, was stopped at New Delhi airport on May 1 and not allowed to board a flight to Bangkok to attend a meeting on behalf of Huawei Telecommunications (India). His boarding pass was cancelled and was not returned to him. He had petitioned the Delhi High Court challenging the LOC.
Li termed the I-T department’s action as a “huge blow” to his reputation “as well as to the reputation of Huawei India.” In response, as first reported by ET last month, the I-T department had told the Delhi High Court that an LOC was issued against Li “because his conduct during the course of the search demonstrated that he was a flight risk.”
Huawei has denied accusations of non-cooperation. In a statement released to ET last month, Huawei’s Indian unit said it is fully cooperating with the authorities and has submitted the requisite information and clarification as sought by the authorities from time to time.