India arrests South Korean CEO, 11 others for gas leak at LG Polymers plant

A government-appointed committee said LG Chem had been negligent and warning systems were not working.
A government-appointed committee said LG Chem had been negligent and warning systems were not working.PHOTO: REUTERS

CHENNAI (REUTERS) - Indian police have arrested 12 LG Polymers officials, including its South Korean chief executive Sunkey Jeong, an officer said on Wednesday (July 8), two months after a gas leak at the company's south India chemical plant killed 12.

The arrests were made under a case of culpable homicide filed against the company's South Korean parent, LG Chem Ltd , when the leak occurred in the early hours on May 7 in the port city of Visakhapatnam, the police commissioner Rajiv Kumar Meena said.

"A total of 12 members including the CEO and two directors were arrested on Tuesday evening," Mr Meena said, adding that among those arrested were two directors, one of whom is a South Korean.

LG Polymers said it had nothing to share in an email responding to a Reuters request for a comment on the arrests.

Toxic styrene gas leaked from the chemical plant in the early hours of May 7, choking many people who were sleeping.

This week, a government-appointed committee recommended that the plant be shifted away from human habitation and called for action against the top employees.

It said LG Chem had been negligent and warning systems were not working.

The company had ignored potentially hazardous chemical reactions at the plant in April before the leak, when it was working with reduced staff due to a coronavirus lockdown, the committee said. 

The temperature inside the oldest of the three storage tanks holding styrene monomer, a liquid used in making polystyrene products, rose to more than six times the permitted level, after which it evaporated, the committee found. 

LG Chem Ltd said on Monday it had co-operated with the investigation and would respond to the probe result and take corresponding measures. 

The police case included counts of culpable homicide, negligent handling of poisonous substances and causing hurt and endangering public life. 

Mr Meena said the charges could draw prison terms of up to eight years if proven in court.