UK’s billionaire Hinduja family faces trial in Geneva for trafficking, exploiting domestic workers

The United Kingdom’s richest family, the Hindujas, is on trial in Switzerland for human trafficking and exploitation of their Indian staff in Geneva, reported the BBC.

The trial began in Geneva on Monday against four members of the family –Prakash and Kamal Hinduja, their son Ajay and his wife Namrata. The Hindujas own a business conglomerate that comprises companies working in sectors such as automotives, oil, banking and finance, and real estate.

The family owns a villa in the Swiss city of Geneva. The case against them in Switzerland pertains to them bringing in domestic workers from India to look after their children and the house.

The prosecutors alleged that the Hindujas confiscated the passports of the domestic workers, and did not allow them to leave the house without permission, reported Bloomberg.

The salaries of the workers were paid in India, because of which they had no Swiss francs to spend, prosecutor Yves Bertossa alleged.

“They spent more for one dog than one of their servants,” the prosecutor, according to Bloomberg. He told the court that an Indian domestic worker at Hinduja household was paid at one point as little as 7 Swiss francs (Rs 660) for a working day that lasted as long as 18 hours.

He then showed a budget document titled “Pets” to show that the family spent 8,584 Swiss francs (Rs 8,09,326) annually on their family dog.

The prosecutors said that Prakash and Kamal Hinduja, who did not appear in court citing health conditions, have shown contempt of court. Bertossa sought five and half years in prison for them. He said that since the elderly couple travelled freely between Dubai and Cannes, they could have spent an extra 30 minutes on a plane to come to Geneva, reported Bloomberg.

For Ajay and his wife Namrata, the Swiss prosecutors demanded a jail term of four and a half years. Bertossa also demanded the family cover 1 million Swiss francs in legal fees and pay 3.5 million francs as compensation fund for the staff.

The Hinduja family’s lawyers contended that the low wages of the workers must be viewed in the context that the staff were also receiving accommodation and food.

“The salary can’t simply be reduced to what they were paid in cash,” Yael Hayat, a lawyer for Ajay Hinduja told the court, reported Bloomberg. She also claimed that the allegation about 18 hour-working days was also an exaggeration.

“When they [domestic workers] sit down to watch a movie with the kids, can that be considered work,” Hayat said. “I think not.”

The Hindujas’ lawyers also argued that the family members themselves were not involved in the hiring or day-to-day handling of the staff and it was done by the company in India.

The criminal trial against the Hindujas comes after the family and their staff settled a civil lawsuit last week, reported Bloomberg.

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