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UK's richest family get jail terms for exploiting staff

June 21, 2024

The Hinduja family forced vulnerable domestic workers from India to work excruciatingly long hours at their villa in Geneva. The court found the workers were paid a pittance in Indian rupees, not Swiss francs.

Ajay Hinduja outside court in Geneva
Ajay Hinduja (left) was sentenced to four years in prison for mistreatment of the family's domestic staffImage: SALVATORE DI NOLFI/picture alliance

A Swiss court has sentenced four members of the wealthy Hinduja family to up to four years and six months in jail on Friday for exploiting their domestic workers.

Members of the family were accused of trafficking mostly-illiterate domestic workers from India, confiscating their passports, and forcing them to work 16-hour days in their Geneva villa without overtime pay.

The domestic workers were paid between 220 and 400 francs ($250-450) a month — a wage up to 90% less than what they could expect to earn in Switzerland. This wage was paid in Indian rupees into banks back home that the workers could not physically access.

"They're profiting from the misery of the world," Geneva prosecutor Yves Bertossa told the court.

He accused the Hindujas of spending "more on their dog than on their domestic employees."

The Hindujas own the Hinduja Group, which has interests in banking, oil, media, healthcare, entertainment and chemicals.

With a fortune estimated at £37 billion ($47 billion, €43 billion), Gopi Hinduja and his family top the Sunday Times list of the UK's 350 richest people. Gopi himself was not named in the case.

What sentences did the Hinduja family receive?

The defendants were found guilty of "usury" for exploiting the vulnerable domestic workers.

Prakash Hinduja and his wife Kamal were were each sentenced to four years and six months in prison.

Their son Ajay Hinduja and his wife Namrata also received four-year terms.

Meanwhile, the family's business manager received an 18-month suspended sentence.

Prakash Hinduja in 2025
Prakash Hinduja has business interests in banking, media, entertainment and chemicalsImage: Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times/imago images

"The four Hinduja defendants knew the weak position their employees were in and knew the law in Switzerland," judge Sabina Mascotto said in her ruling.

The court dismissed the more severe charges of human trafficking charges against the family which has roots in India.

Hinduja family to appeal ruling

The Hinduja family was not present in court on Friday. Their lawyers said said Kamal Hinduja had been hospitalized in Monaco and that the other three defendants were at her bedside.

They also said the family would appeal the ruling.

During the hearing, the family's lawyers claimed that the domestic workers received ample benefits and downplayed claims of exploitation.

"We are not dealing with mistreated slaves," lawyer Nicolas Jeandin told the court.

Another of the family's lawyers, Robert Assael, argued that the workers "were grateful to the Hindujas for offering them a better life."

zc/lo (AFP, AP)