A minister in the New Zealand cabinet was reprimanded Monday and forced to sever his ties with a company over a perceived conflict of interest on a recent private trip to India, reports say.

The reprimand followed a report in a Wellington newspaper to the effect that Dr Richard Worth, Minister of Internal Affairs, in his speech at a formal ceremony praised the plus points of New Zealand for aviation-training during a private visit as chairman of the India Trade Group last month.

Prime Minister John Key told a news conference that Worth had disassociated himself from the company that is trying to attract Indian student-pilots to be trained in the southwestern Pacific Ocean Commonwealth country.

He said Worth had resigned as a director and share-holder of New Zealand Aviation as also as chairman of the India Trade Group, and as head of the New Zealand-Korea Business Council.

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 share-holder and director of a company called New Zealand Aviation that had an interest in a company that stood to benefit from the visit, I would not have approved the trip, he said.

The premier 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 but resigned later, recognizing the potential conflict of interest.

He said he had warned ministers at his weekly cabinet meeting Monday that the line between their personal and ministerial responsibilities must remain clear, and that private trips overseas should be strictly restricted to holidays, or risk blurring that line.

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