Swiss Court Orders Prison for Billionaire Family Members

Hindujas found guilty of exploiting domestic workers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 21, 2024 2:25 PM CDT
Swiss Court Orders Prison for Billionaire Family Members
Defense lawyers Nicolas Jeandin, left, and Robert Assael leave the courthouse in Geneva after a break in the reading of the verdict Friday during the trial of members of the billionaire Hinduja family.   (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

A Swiss criminal court on Friday sentenced four members of the wealthy Hinduja family to between four and 4½ years in prison for exploiting their vulnerable domestic workers. The court at the same time threw out the more serious charges of human trafficking. The four—Indian-born tycoon Prakash Hinduja; his wife, Kamal Hinduja; their son Ajay Hinduja, and their daughter-in-law Namrata Hindujaand, per the New York Times—were accused of trafficking their servants, mostly illiterate Indians. They were employed at the family's luxurious lakeside villa in Geneva, the AP reports. The four were not in court in Geneva, though a fifth defendant—Najib Ziazi, the family's business manager—was in attendance. He received a suspended sentence of 18 months.

The lawyers representing the defendants said they would appeal. The court said the four were guilty of exploiting workers and providing unauthorized employment. It dismissed the trafficking charges on the grounds that the workers understood what they were getting into. The accusations included seizing workers' passports, paying them in rupees—instead of Swiss francs—barring them from leaving the villa, and forcing them to work excruciatingly long hours for a pittance in Switzerland. Last week, it emerged in criminal court that the family had reached an undisclosed settlement with the plaintiffs. The family set up residence in Switzerland decades ago, and Prakash was already convicted in 2007 on similar, if lesser charges, though prosecutors say he persisted in employing people without proper paperwork anyway.

Swiss authorities have already seized diamonds, rubies, a platinum necklace, and other jewelry and assets from the family in anticipation that they could be used to pay legal fees and possible penalties, per the AP. Prosecutors said that at times the workers—in jobs like cooks or household help—were forced to work up to 18 hours a day with little or no vacation time and for pay equal to less than one-tenth the amount required under Swiss law. Along with three brothers, Prakash Hinduja is a leader of an industrial conglomerate. Forbes magazine puts the net worth of the Hinduja family at some $20 billion.

(More Switzerland stories.)

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