Hinduja family members not imprisoned? Spokesperson says...

The wealthy Hinduja family, with businesses in 48 countries, is appealing a Swiss court ruling on human trafficking charges. They deny any imprisonment and maintain their innocence, as the court found them guilty of mistreating domestic workers in Geneva.

Livemint
Published23 Jun 2024, 09:36 PM IST
(FILES) Indian-Swiss billionaire family members Namrata Hinduja (L) and Ajay Hinduja (2ndR) arrive at the Geneva's courthouse with their lawyers Yael Hayat (C) and Robert Assael (R) at the opening day of their trial for human trafficking on January 15, 2024. A Swiss court on June 21, 2024, acquitted four members of Britain's richest family, the Hindujas, of human trafficking charges over treatment of domestic employees.
(FILES) Indian-Swiss billionaire family members Namrata Hinduja (L) and Ajay Hinduja (2ndR) arrive at the Geneva’s courthouse with their lawyers Yael Hayat (C) and Robert Assael (R) at the opening day of their trial for human trafficking on January 15, 2024. A Swiss court on June 21, 2024, acquitted four members of Britain’s richest family, the Hindujas, of human trafficking charges over treatment of domestic employees. (AFP)

In a statement issued days after a Swiss court gave out jail terms to Britain's wealthiest family, the Hindujas, their spokesperson said that neither of the members have been put in jail.

They said that they were “appalled” by the court's and have filed an appeal in a higher court challenging the verdict. The Swiss court had found them guilty of exploiting vulnerable domestic workers from India employed at their villa in Geneva.

The jail terms, of between four and four-and-a-half years in prison, were issued to Kamal Hinduja, Prakash Hinduja and their son Ajay and his wife Namrata. They are all Swiss nationals.

Also Read | ‘Hindujas created climate of fear, workers slept in windowless basement’: Report

The statement, issued on Saturday, said that none of them have been subjected to any "imprisonment, conviction, sentence or detention."

“Per Swiss law procedures, the lower court's judgement is rendered ineffective and inoperative as the presumption of innocence is paramount until and unless a final judgment by the highest adjudicating authority is enforced,” the family's spokesperson said.

“It may be noted that the case has no complainants left anymore and they had declared in the court that they were led into signing statements that they didn't even understand. They had neither intended to nor initiated such proceedings. All of them further testified that the four Hinduja Family Members treated them with ‘respect, dignity and like family’," they added.

Also Read | Why the Hinduja brothers were sentenced to jail: Breakdown of charges again them

In an earlier stamen, the spokesperson also said that the family members have been acquitted of all charges. They also dismissed reports saying that some members of the family faced detention.

“Our clients have been acquitted of all human trafficking charges. We are appalled and disappointed by the rest of the decision made in this court of first instance, and we have, of course, filed an appeal to the higher court, thereby making this part of the judgement not effective,” the statement signed by lawyers Yael Hayat and Robert Assael and Roman Jordan said.

“Under Swiss law, the presumption of innocence is paramount till a final judgement by the highest adjudicating authority is enforced. Contrary to some media reports, there is no effective detention for any members of the family,” they said.

Also Read | Hinduja family members get jail terms for exploiting servants in Switzerland

The lawyers also pointed out that “it should also be recalled that the plaintiffs in this case had withdrawn their respective complaints after declaring to the court that they had never intended to be involved in such proceedings.”

What was the case against Hindujas?

The Hinduja family members were accused of seizing the passports of workers working on their villa, barring them from leaving it and forcing them to work very long hours for a pittance in Switzerland, among other things.

This was a clear violation of the country's labour laws.

The report added that some workers spoke only Hindi and were paid their wages in rupees in banks back in India that they could not access.

Also Read | Hinduja Group begins bond sale to raise ₹7,300 cr for Reliance Capital: Report

During the trial, it was said that the family spent more on their dog than on their servants.

The family's legal team had countered the allegations and told the court the staff were treated respectfully and provided with accommodation.

Why are the Hindujas important?

They are the wealthiest family in the UK. According to The Sunday Times Rich List' released last month, the UK-based Hinduja family once again emerged as the country's richest, with wealth estimated at around GBP 37.196 billion.

They saw this tally increase over the previous year in the wake of the opening of the brand-new luxury OWO Raffles Hotel in the heart of London.

Also Read | Hindujas: A look at the billionaire family and their companies

The family's group of companies is headed by GP Hinduja. They have factories over 48 countries and across several sectors - automotive, oil and specialty chemicals, banking and finance, IT, cyber security, healthcare, trading, infrastructure project development, media and entertainment, power, and real estate.

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First Published:23 Jun 2024, 09:36 PM IST
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