Hindujas face 4-year sentences in Swiss court for exploiting domestic workers

Four members of the Hinduja family were sentenced separately for terms ranging up to 4 years and six months

File photo of Namrata and Ajay Hinduja (photo: @TheNewswale/x)
File photo of Namrata and Ajay Hinduja (photo: @TheNewswale/x)

NH Digital

In a landmark decision, a Swiss court has sentenced four members of Britain's wealthiest family, the Hindujas, to prison terms for exploiting their Indian domestic workers at their Geneva mansion.

Despite being acquitted of human trafficking charges, the family members faced convictions on other serious counts in a verdict that has sent shockwaves through both the business and legal communities.

Prakash Hinduja, 78, and his wife Kamal, 75, received sentences of four years and six months each. Their son, Ajay, and his wife, Namrata, were each handed four-year terms.

The court found them guilty of charges related to the maltreatment of their staff, including allegations that they confiscated passports and restricted the workers' freedom.

Prosecutors detailed a disturbing pattern where the staff, brought from India, were paid in Indian rupees, rendering them financially stranded in Switzerland. The trial revealed that workers received between 220 and 400 Swiss francs ($250-450) per month, starkly inadequate for the cost of living in the country.

Geneva prosecutor Yves Bertossa, who had sought a five-and-a-half-year custodial sentence for Prakash and Kamal, highlighted the stark power imbalance exploited by the family. He accused the Hindujas of profiting from their employees' misery, noting that the family spent more on their pet dog than on a staff member, who sometimes worked 15 to 18 hours daily for just 7 Swiss francs.

Defense attorneys for the Hindujas argued that the plaintiffs received sufficient benefits and were free to leave the villa. They described the staff as being grateful for the employment opportunities. "We are not dealing with mistreated slaves," asserted Nicolas Jeandin, one of the defense lawyers.

The Hinduja family's legal team has already filed an appeal, challenging the court's decision. In a statement, lawyers Yael Hayat, Robert Assael, and Romain Jordan expressed their dismay at the verdict, pointing out that their clients were acquitted of all human trafficking charges and dismissing claims that any family members faced immediate detention. They reiterated their confidence in the judicial process and the presumption of innocence until a final ruling.

This high-profile case underscores the ongoing issues surrounding the treatment of domestic workers globally and the responsibilities of affluent employers.

The Hindujas, with their extensive business interests spanning oil, gas, banking, and healthcare, employ around 200,000 people worldwide and have a family fortune estimated at £37 billion ($47 billion).

As the appeal process unfolds, the case continues to garner significant attention, highlighting the complex dynamics between wealth, power, and labour rights in today's globalised economy.

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