Swiss Court jails UK's richest Hinduja family for exploiting Indian domestic workers

Swiss Court jails UK's richest Hinduja family for exploiting Indian domestic workers

Bern, Switzerland: A Swiss court on Friday found members of the UK's wealthiest family guilty of exploiting domestic workers at a luxury villa in Geneva. The court, however, acquitted the family members charged with human trafficking of their servants, The New York Times reported.

On Friday, the court sentenced Prakash and Kamal Hinduja to four years and six months in prison, while Ajay and Namrata Hinduja were sentenced to four years. It also directed them to pay about USD 950,000 in compensation and USD 300,000 in procedural fees.

Prosecutors had charged four members of the UK family - Prakash Hinduja; his wife, Kamal Hinduja; their son Ajay Hinduja; and their daughter-in-law, Namrata Hinduja with trafficking and exploiting several workers from India.

The family members were accused of confiscating the passports of the employees and forcing them to work 16 hours a day or longer without overtime pay in the villa. Lawyers representing the Hindujas had rejected the allegations.

Najib Ziazi, a business adviser for the family who also faced charges, was found complicit in the exploitation. In a statement sent through email, Romain Jordan, a lawyer representing the Hindujas members of the family said they were "disappointed" by the decision and had filed an appeal to a higher court, according to The New York Times report.

The statement further reads, "The family has full faith in the judicial process and remains determined to defend themselves."

The Hinduja family leads a multinational conglomerate with large holdings in real estate, automotive manufacturing, banking, oil and gas and health care.

Arguments in the trial started on June 10, with the lead prosecutor, Yves Bertossa, claiming that the family had budgeted more for a pet than it had for the salary of one domestic worker, The New York Times reported, citing reports in the Swiss news media.

According to the indictment, some domestic workers, who took care of children or housework, were paid as little as 10,000 rupees a month (about USD 120 currently). It said that many of the workers were from poor backgrounds in India and had toiled "from dawn until late in the evening" without getting paid for working overtime.

The indictment said that they received salaries below Geneva's minimum wage for domestic workers and money was paid into Indian bank accounts that they could not easily get access to.

Prosecutors had alleged that the Hinduja family had taken the passports of domestic workers and told them not to leave the villa, where they slept in bunk beds in a windowless basement room. According to the indictment, the workers were expected to be available at all times, including on trips to France and Monaco, where they worked under the same conditions.

The Hinduja family's lawyer, Jordan, rejects the allegations, calling it "exaggerated and biased allegations." In a statement issued before the verdict, he said, "The members of the Hinduja family vigorously deny these allegations," The New York Times reported.

A civil case involving the main accusers, who worked for the family, was settled last week, The New York Times reported, citing Swiss news reports. Jordan refused to discuss the terms. He, however, said that the agreement was "confidential" and that the plaintiffs had withdrawn their complaints.

In the criminal case, prosecutors had requested that the court sentence them for up to five and a half years, along with millions of francs in fines and compensation, The New York Times reported, citing Swiss news media.

Three Hinduja brothers lead the family's conglomerate, with two based in UK and around Europe. The family owns properties in London, including a 25-bedroom residence, a five-star Raffles Hotel in a historic former government building, the Old War Office, according to The New York Times report.

The most senior of the brothers, Srichand P Hinduja, who was also joint chairman of the Hinduja Group, passed away in 2023 at 87. Prior to his death, factions of the family were involved in a protracted battle over the control of family assets.