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Swiss Court Sentences Four Hinduja Family Members for Exploiting Domestic Workers

21-06-2024: On Friday, a Swiss criminal court sentenced four members of the affluent Hinduja family to prison terms ranging from four to four and a half years for exploiting their vulnerable domestic workers. Among those sentenced were Indian-born tycoon Prakash Hinduja, his wife, son, and daughter-in-law. The court, however, dismissed the more severe charges of human trafficking.

The accusations centered on allegations that the Hinduja family had trafficked their servants, who were primarily illiterate Indians, and employed them at their opulent lakeside villa in Geneva. Although the four Hinduja family members were absent from the Geneva court, a fifth defendant, the family’s business manager Najib Ziazi, was present and received an 18-month suspended sentence.

Defense attorneys announced plans to appeal the court’s decision. The court concluded that the family was guilty of exploiting workers and providing unauthorized employment but dismissed the human trafficking charges, citing that the workers were aware of the conditions they were entering.

The Hinduja family members were accused of confiscating workers’ passports, paying them in Indian rupees rather than Swiss francs, restricting their movements, and forcing them to work excessively long hours for minimal pay. Last week, it was revealed that the family had reached an undisclosed settlement with the plaintiffs in criminal court. Geneva prosecutors had launched the case, citing alleged illegal activities such as exploitation, human trafficking, and violations of Swiss labor laws.

Prakash Hinduja and his family have been residents of Switzerland for decades. Prakash was previously convicted in 2007 on similar, though lesser, charges but continued to employ people without proper documentation. In anticipation of covering legal fees and potential penalties, Swiss authorities have already seized valuable assets from the family, including diamonds, rubies, and a platinum necklace.

Prosecutors detailed the harsh working conditions faced by the staff, who held positions such as cooks and house help. They were often forced to work up to 18 hours a day with little to no vacation, earning less than one-tenth of the legally required minimum wage in Switzerland. Staff members also worked late hours during receptions and were made to sleep in the villa’s basement, sometimes on a mattress on the floor. Prosecutors described a climate of fear, primarily instituted by Kamal Hinduja.

Many employees reportedly spoke only Hindi and were paid in Indian rupees deposited in banks in India, which they could not access while in Switzerland. A separate tax case against Prakash Hinduja is still pending, despite him obtaining Swiss citizenship in 2000.

Alongside his three brothers, Prakash Hinduja is a leader of a vast industrial conglomerate with interests in information technology, media, power, real estate, and healthcare. Forbes magazine currently estimates the Hinduja family’s net worth at approximately $20 billion.