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Hinduja Family Sentenced 4.5 Years for Exploiting Indian Workers in Switzerland

A Swiss court has handed prison sentences to four members of the Hinduja family, the wealthiest family in the UK for exploiting Indian workers at their luxurious villa on Lake Geneva.

Hinduja Family Sentenced 4.5 Years for Exploiting Indian Workers in Switzerland

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Prakash Hinduja and his wife, Kamal received prison sentences of four years and six months each. Their son, Ajay and his wife, Namrata, were sentenced to four years in prison each.

The charges included “usury” for exploiting immigrant staff, although the family was acquitted of human trafficking charges.

The family was accused of exploiting workers who had little education and no knowledge of their rights.

The court dismissed the human trafficking charges, stating that the workers traveled to Switzerland willingly and were aware of their employment conditions.

The charges of usury were upheld, showing the severe underpayment and exploitation of the workers.

The employees were paid between 220 and 400 Swiss francs (approximately US$250-450) per month, which is very less than the legal minimum wage in Switzerland.

Prosecutors highlighted that the Hindujas spent more money on their dog than on their domestic staff. Workers were paid in Indian rupees instead of Swiss francs.

Workers were forced to work long hours often up to 18 hours a day, with little or no time off. The court said that employees were not kept in isolation but were severely restricted in their movements and had their passports confiscated.

The defense argued that the workers were provided with “ample benefits” and were not treated as slaves.

The Hinduja family denied all allegations claiming that the prosecution was an attempt to do in the Hindujas due to their high profile.

The family has decided to appeal the verdict, arguing that the workers were grateful for the employment and were not mistreated.

Lawyers for the family stated that the trial was more about making an example of the family than seeking actual justice.

The Hinduja family with a net worth estimated at £37 billion (US$47 billion), is the wealthiest in the UK and one of the richest families globally.

They have business interests across various sectors including oil and gas, banking, healthcare, and more with operations in 38 countries.

The Hinduja family legacy began in 1914 with Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja, who started a commodities trading business in British India’s Sindh region.

The family business expanded under Parmanand’s four sons, with Srichand, the eldest, passing away in 2023.

The remaining brothers, Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok, continue to manage the vast empire. The Hinduja family is one of Asia’s top 20 wealthiest families with a fortune estimated at $20 billion, holding stakes in various industries including finance, media, and energy.

Four Hinduja family members were convicted for underpaying and mistreating domestic workers brought from India to their luxurious villa in Geneva, Switzerland.

They were found guilty of providing wages below the Swiss standard rate, seizing passports, restricting movement and forcing employees to work extended hours without proper compensation or benefits.

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Prakash Hinduja (78) and his wife, Kamal Hinduja (75), were sentenced to 4 1/2 years each. Their son, Ajay Hinduja, and his wife, Namrata, received 4-year sentences.

The family’s business manager, Najib Ziazi, received an 18-month suspended sentence. The Hindujas have expressed their dismay at the verdict and have filed an appeal.

Workers had their passports taken away, limiting their freedom and making it difficult for them to leave the premises.

Employees were paid in Indian rupees to bank accounts in India, far below Swiss wage standards and inaccessible to them while in Switzerland.

Staff were forced to work up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, without statutory time off or benefits. They often slept in the basement on mattresses.

The case began in 2018 when Swiss prosecutors raided the Hinduja villa, Hinduja Bank offices and other local businesses.

Documents and hard drives were seized as evidence leading to the conviction. The family was found guilty of exploiting the workers’ lack of local language skills and knowledge.

Severe charges of human trafficking were dismissed, but other charges related to exploitation were upheld.

The Hinduja family’s legal team denied the allegations, saying that the staff were treated respectfully and provided proper accommodation.

The family reached a confidential out-of-court settlement with three employees who made accusations against them.

Prosecutors highlighted that the workers were forced to work long hours, with little or no vacation, under harsh conditions, for minimal pay.

Swiss authorities confiscated valuable assets including jewellery and precious stones, to cover legal fees and penalties.

The defence lawyers argued that the plaintiffs received ample benefits and were not kept in isolation. They maintained that the workers were not mistreated and were free to leave the villa.

The defence suggested that the prosecution aimed to make an example of the family and that the trial should focus on “justice, not social justice.”

The Hinduja Group, with interests in oil and gas, banking, and healthcare, operates in 38 countries and employs about 200,000 people.

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