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Swiss court sentences 4 members of Hinduja family to up to 4 and a half years for exploiting their servants

A Swiss criminal court on Friday 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.

Swiss court sentences 4 members of Hinduja family to up to 4 1/2 years for exploiting their servants snt
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First Published Jun 21, 2024, 10:05 PM IST

A Swiss criminal court on Friday 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. However, the court dismissed the more severe charges of human trafficking.

The convicted individuals include Indian-born tycoon Prakash Hinduja, his wife, son, and daughter-in-law. They were accused of trafficking their mostly illiterate Indian servants, who worked at their luxurious lakeside villa in Geneva.

The four were not present in court, though a fifth defendant, the family’s business manager Najib Ziazi, was. Ziazi received an 18-month suspended sentence.

The court found the four guilty of exploiting workers and providing unauthorized employment but dismissed the trafficking charges, stating that the staff were aware of the nature of their employment.

The four Hinduja family members were accused of confiscating workers’ passports, paying them in rupees instead of Swiss francs, restricting them from leaving the villa, and forcing them to work excessively long hours for meager wages in Switzerland, among other violations.

Last week, it was revealed in criminal court that the family, originally from India, had reached an undisclosed settlement with the plaintiffs. Geneva prosecutors had initiated the case due to allegations of illegal activities, including exploitation, human trafficking, and breaches of Swiss labor laws.

The family established their residence in Switzerland decades ago, and Prakash Hinduja was previously convicted in 2007 on similar but lesser charges. Despite this, prosecutors assert that he continued employing people without the necessary documentation.

Swiss authorities have already confiscated diamonds, rubies, a platinum necklace, and other jewelry and assets from the family, anticipating their use to cover legal fees and potential penalties.

Prosecutors indicated that the staff, including cooks and house help, were sometimes compelled to work up to 18 hours a day with little or no vacation, for wages amounting to less than one-tenth of the legally required amount under Swiss law.

Prosecutors reported that employees worked even later hours during receptions and slept in the basement of the villa in the upscale Cologny neighborhood, sometimes on mattresses on the floor. They described a "climate of fear" instilled by Kamal Hinduja.

Some employees, who allegedly spoke only Hindi, were paid their wages in Indian rupees deposited in banks back home, making it difficult for them to access their earnings.

Prakash Hinduja, who obtained Swiss citizenship in 2000, also faces a separate pending tax case brought by Swiss authorities.

Prakash Hinduja, along with his three brothers, leads an industrial conglomerate with interests in information technology, media, power, real estate, and health care. Forbes magazine currently estimates the Hinduja family's net worth at around $20 billion.

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