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Four members of Britain's richest family sentenced to jail for exploiting domestic staff

NEW DELHI: Four members of the Indian-origin wealthy Hinduja clan, which is ranked as Britain's richest family, were on Friday sentenced to prison terms in Switzerland for exploiting their Indian domestic staff.

A court in Geneva found 79-year-old Prakash Hinduja, wife Kamal, 75, son Ajay, 56, and daughter-in-law Namrata, aged 50, guilty of underpaying and restricting freedom of their staff hired directly from India to work at their Lake Geneva mansion.

The Hindujas, who were not present in court for the verdict, were acquitted of the more serious human trafficking charge on the grounds that the staff had travelled to Switzerland willingly and were aware of their employment contracts, according to reports in the British press.

They faced charges such as seizing their household staff's passports, barring them from going out and making them work long hours.

The staff were paid a salary of between 220 and 400 Swiss francs per month, a fraction of the going rate in Switzerland, according to a report on the Guardian website.

"They're profiting from the misery of the world," prosecutor Yves Bertossa told the court.

The prosecutor also said the family spent more for one dog than one of their servants.

"The four Hindujas knew the vulnerabilities of the staff and knew what the rules were in Switzerland, as they all were Swiss citizens and Ajay was educated in Switzerland," presiding judge Sabina Mascotto was quoted as saying in a report.

The fifth defendant in the case is the family's business manager Najib Ziazi, who was given an 18-month suspended sentence.

Lawyers for the Hindujas have filed an appeal against the verdict.

"The family has full faith in the judicial process and remains confident that the truth will prevail," the lawyers said.

India-born Prakash, one of the three brothers whose families control the Hinduja Group, acquired Swiss citizenship in 2000.

The eldest brother Srichand Parmanand Hinduja died at the age of 87 in London in May 2023 after which Gopichand, 84, took over as chairman of the group, which is estimated worth £37 billion (about US$47 billion).

Ashok, the youngest son of group founder Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja, runs the conglomerate's Indian operations.

There was a power struggle within the group but the family called a truce in 2022.

The group is involved in sectors such as automotive, banking, information technology, chemicals, power, media, infrastructure and healthcare, and employs 200,000 people in India and abroad.

– BERNAMA

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