A Swiss court condemns the richest family in the United Kingdom for exploiting domestic staff

A Swiss court on Friday found members of Britain's richest family guilty of exploiting domestic workers at a luxury villa in Geneva, but acquitted them of the more serious charge of human trafficking.

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

They were accused of confiscating employees' passports and forcing them to work 16 hours a day or more without overtime pay at the villa. Lawyers representing the Hindujas had denied the allegations.

The court on Friday sentenced Prakash and Kamal Hinduja to four years and six months in prison, and Ajay and Namrata Hinduja to four years, according to news agencies. He also ordered them to pay about $950,000 in restitution, as well as about $300,000 in procedural costs. Najib Ziazi, a business consultant for the family who was also charged, was found complicit in the exploitation.

In an emailed statement from Romain Jordan, a lawyer representing the Hindujas, family members said they were “disappointed” by the decision and had appealed to a higher court. “The family has full faith in the judicial process and remains determined to defend itself,” the statement added.

The Hinduja family heads a multinational conglomerate with large holdings in automotive, banking, oil and gas, real estate and healthcare. The Sunday Times of London recently estimated the family's net worth at 37 billion pounds, or $47 billion, and listed the Hindujas as Britain's richest family.

Prosecutor Yves Bertossa said on June 10 that the family had set aside more money for a pet than for the salary of a domestic worker, Swiss media reported.

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 $120 currently). Many of the workers came from poor backgrounds in India, it said, and had worked “from dawn until late at night” without overtime pay. Their salaries – well below the Geneva minimum wage for domestic workers – were paid into Indian bank accounts that they could not easily access, the indictment says.

Prosecutors had said the Hinduja family confiscated the domestic workers' passports and told them not to leave the villa, where they slept in bunk beds in a windowless basement. The workers should have been available at all times, the indictment says, including during trips to France and Monaco, where they worked under the same conditions.

Mr Jordan, the Hinduja family's lawyer, had rejected what he called “exaggerated and biased allegations”.

“Members of the Hinduja family vigorously deny these allegations,” he said in a statement before the verdict.

According to the Swiss press, a civil case involving the main accusers, who worked for the family, was settled last week. Mr. Jordan declined to discuss the terms, but said the settlement was “confidential” and that the plaintiffs had withdrawn their complaints.

According to Swiss media, in the criminal case the prosecutor's office requested prison sentences of up to five and a half years as well as fines and compensation amounting to millions of francs.

Three Hinduja brothers lead the family conglomerate, with two based in Britain and across Europe. The family owns vast real estate assets in London, including a 25-bedroom townhouse and a five-star Raffles Hotel in a historic former government building, the Old War Office.

The eldest of the brothers, Srichand P. Hinduja, who was also joint chairman of the Hinduja Group, died in May last year at the age of 87. Before his death, family factions had been involved in a long battle for control of the family. resources.

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