Hinduja family members sentenced to jail: Breakdown of charges against the India-born richest family in Britain

Ajay Hinduja, his wife Namrata, and his parents were found guilty of illegally underpaying staff hired from India, providing wages far below the Swiss standard rate

Livemint
Updated22 Jun 2024, 10:11 AM IST
Ajay Hinduja and his wife Namrata, who were also not present in the courtroom, were sentenced to 4 years.
Ajay Hinduja and his wife Namrata, who were also not present in the courtroom, were sentenced to 4 years.

Four members of the prominent Hinduja family were convicted on Friday for exploiting underpaid servants at their luxurious villa in Geneva, Switzerland. The elder family members, Prakash Hinduja (78) and Kamal Hinduja (75), who were absent from the trial due to health issues, received sentences of 4 1/2 years each. According to Bloomberg, Ajay Hinduja and his wife Namrata, who were also not present in the courtroom, were sentenced to 4 years.

Ajay Hinduja, his wife Namrata, and his parents were found guilty of illegally underpaying staff hired from India, providing wages far below the Swiss standard rate.

The family's business manager, Najib Ziazi, received an 18-month suspended sentence.

The Hindujas expressed their dismay at the court's decision and announced an appeal has been filed to a higher court. They hope to overturn the verdict, which found them guilty of exploiting vulnerable domestic workers, as reported by PTI.

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Background on the Hinduja family

The Hinduja family's legacy dates back to 1914 when Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja founded a commodities-trading business in British India's Sindh region. The business quickly diversified under his four sons, initially finding success by distributing Bollywood films internationally. Srichand, the eldest son, passed away in 2023, leaving behind his brothers Gopichand, Prakash, and Ashok, who continue to manage the family's vast business empire.

With interests in finance, media, and energy, the Hinduja family owns stakes in six publicly traded Indian companies and has a collective wealth estimated at $20 billion by Forbes. This places them among Asia's top 20 wealthiest families.

Charges and court findings

The Hinduja family members were accused of seizing workers' passports, preventing them from leaving the villa, and forcing them to work long hours for minimal pay. Many workers, only speaking Hindi, were paid in rupees to bank accounts in India, which they could not access while in Switzerland.

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The family's legal team denied the allegations, arguing that the staff were treated respectfully and provided proper accommodation. However, the Swiss court dismissed more severe charges of human trafficking but upheld the convictions for exploiting the workers' lack of local language skills and knowledge. Workers reported a "climate of fear" and were forced to work up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, without statutory time off or benefits, for wages far below the Swiss standard.

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Details of the case

The conviction stemmed from a case that began in 2018 when Swiss prosecutors, acting on a tip-off, raided the Hinduja villa, Hinduja Bank offices, and other local businesses owned by the Hinduja Group. Documents and hard drives were seized as evidence. The court found the four family members guilty of providing unauthorized employment, offering minimal health benefits, and paying wages less than one-tenth of the standard rate for such jobs in Switzerland.

Prosecutors highlighted that the workers endured harsh conditions, working with little or no vacation, extended hours for receptions, and often slept in the basement on mattresses. Swiss authorities have confiscated valuable assets, including diamonds, rubies, a platinum necklace, and other jewellery, to cover potential legal fees and penalties.

(With Inputs from agencies)

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First Published:22 Jun 2024, 10:11 AM IST
HomeNewsHinduja family members sentenced to jail: Breakdown of charges against the India-born richest family in Britain

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