Hindujas: Four members of Britain's richest family get jail sentences after exploiting servants

21 June 2024, 16:17 | Updated: 21 June 2024, 19:04

Four members of Britain's richest family have received jail sentences after being found guilty of exploiting their vulnerable domestic workers and providing unauthorised employment.

Indian-born tycoon Prakash Hinduja and his wife Kamal, along with their son Ajay and his wife Namrata, were, however, cleared by a Swiss criminal court of more serious charges of human trafficking linked to their servants.

The court ruled the servants, who were mostly illiterate Indians and worked at their lakeside villa in Geneva, knew what they were getting into.

The four family members were sentenced to between four and four-and-a-half years in prison.

The lawyers representing the defendants said they would appeal.

In their defence, the Hinduja family's legal team stated the staff were treated respectfully and provided with accommodation.

The four were accused of seizing workers' passports, paying them in rupees - not Swiss francs - barring them from leaving the villa and forcing them to work very long hours for a pittance in Switzerland, among other things.

Sentences

Prakash and Kamal each received jail sentences of four-and-a-half years, while Ajay and his wife Namrata were sentenced to four years each.

The defendants were not in court in Geneva though a fifth defendant - Najib Ziazi, the family's business manager - was there on Friday. He received an 18-month suspended sentence.

Prakash and Kamal, aged 78 and 75 respectively, reportedly did not attend the trial due to health reasons.

It emerged last week in criminal court the family - which has roots in India - had reached an undisclosed settlement with the plaintiffs. Geneva prosecutors opened the case for alleged illegal activity including exploitation, human trafficking and violation of Swiss labour laws.

What did the prosecution allege?

The prosecution said the workers - who were in jobs such as cooks or house help - were sometimes forced to work up to 18 hours a day with little or no holiday time off.

And their pay was less than one-tenth of the comparable amount required under Swiss law, it was alleged.

Employees worked even later hours for receptions and slept in the basement of the villa in the upmarket Cologny area - sometimes on a mattress on the floor, said prosecutors, who described a "climate of fear" brought by Kamal Hinduja.

Some workers allegedly spoke only Hindi and were paid their wages in Indian rupees in banks back home that they could not access.

Swiss authorities have already seized jewellery including diamonds, rubies, a platinum necklace, as well as other assets, from the family in anticipation they could be used to pay for legal fees and possible penalties.

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The Hinduja family controls multinational conglomerate the Hinduja Group with businesses ranging from trucks and lubricants to banking and cable television.

Prakash Hinduja's brother Gopichand took over as chairman after older sibling Srichand died in May 2023.

Prakash is chair of the Hinduja Group in Europe, while a fourth brother Ashok is chair of Hinduja Group of Companies (India).

The family, led by Gopichand, topped the 2024 Sunday Times rich list with a combined wealth of £37.196bn.