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4 Hinduja Family Members Sentenced in Swiss Court for Exploiting Domestic Workers

GENEVA (AP) — A Swiss criminal court on Friday sentenced four members of the billionaire Hinduja family to prison terms ranging from four to 4 1/2 years for exploiting their vulnerable domestic workers. However, the court dismissed more severe charges of human trafficking.

Charges and Sentencing

Indian-born tycoon Prakash Hinduja, along with his wife, son, and daughter-in-law, were found guilty of abusing mostly illiterate Indian workers employed at their luxurious lakeside villa in Geneva. The court heard that the Hindujas seized the workers’ passports and paid them in Indian rupees, which they could not access, rather than in Swiss francs.

None of the four defendants were present in court, although their business manager, Najib Ziazi, attended and received an 18-month suspended sentence. The defendants’ lawyers indicated plans to appeal the verdict.

Exploitation and Unauthorized Employment

The court ruled that the Hindujas were guilty of exploitation and unauthorized employment. Workers were deprived of adequate health benefits and were paid less than one-tenth of the standard wage for such jobs in Switzerland. The trafficking charges were dismissed as the court determined that the staff partly understood the conditions they were entering.

Prakash Hinduja and his wife Kamal were each sentenced to 4 1/2 years, while their son Ajay and his wife Namrata received four-year sentences. The trial began on June 10.

Settlement and Prosecutors’ Actions

Last week, it was revealed in court that the family had reached an undisclosed settlement with the plaintiffs. Geneva prosecutors had opened the case based on allegations of exploitation, human trafficking, and violations of Swiss labor laws.

The Hinduja family settled in Switzerland in the late 1980s, and Prakash was previously convicted in 2007 on similar, though less severe, charges. Despite this, prosecutors stated that he continued to employ workers without proper documentation.

Asset Seizure and Working Conditions

Swiss authorities have seized diamonds, rubies, a platinum necklace, and other assets from the family to cover legal fees and potential penalties. Prosecutors detailed that some staffers, employed as cooks or house help, were forced to work up to 18 hours a day with little to no vacation. In one instance, an ailing employee was stuck with a hospital bill of over 7,000 francs, and the family only agreed to pay half.

Employees often worked late hours for receptions and slept in the villa’s basement, sometimes on mattresses on the floor. Prosecutors described a “climate of fear” enforced by Kamal Hinduja. Some employees, who only spoke Hindi, were paid in Indian rupees in banks back home that they could not access.

Ongoing Legal Matters

A separate tax case against Prakash Hinduja is pending. Prakash, who obtained Swiss citizenship in 2000, is a leader of an industrial conglomerate spanning sectors such as information technology, media, power, real estate, and healthcare. Forbes estimates the Hinduja family’s net worth at around $20 billion.

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