UK’s richest family sentenced to jail for exploiting Indian staff
UK’s richest family sentenced to jail for exploiting Indian staff

The prosecutor accused the Hindujas of spending “more on their dog than on their domestic employees”

A Swiss court has sentenced 79-year-old Indian-British tycoon Prakash Hinduja and three members of his family to four years in prison for allegedly exploiting domestic staff at their villa in Switzerland.

The members of Britain’s richest family, whose fortune is estimated at $47 billion, were accused of bringing illiterate servants from their native India, employing them without proper documentation, confiscating their passports, and forcing them to work up to 16 hours a day for salaries less than 10% the pay for similar jobs.

The prosecutors also accused Prakash and his wife, as well as their son and daughter-in-law, of human trafficking – but the charge was dropped because the workers allegedly understood, “at least in part,” what they were getting into, according to AP.

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The family reached an undisclosed settlement with their three accusers last week, but the Swiss authorities still decided to push forward with sentencing in the 2018 case, citing “gravity” of the charges.

“They’re profiting from the misery of the world,” the Geneva prosecutor Yves Bertossa told the court in his closing address on Friday, accusing the billionaires of paying their vulnerable employee less than they were spending “on their dog.”

The Hindujas, who were not present at court due to old age and poor health, denied the allegations and were “disappointed” by the “excessive” indictment, according to their lawyers, who promised to appeal the ruling to seek “justice, not social justice.”

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“We are not dealing with mistreated slaves,” one lawyer told the court, arguing that workers were free to leave the villa. Another lawyer claimed that the employees were actually “grateful to the Hindujas for offering them a better life.”

Prakash is the second of three brothers, all UK citizens, in control of the Hinduja Group, a multinational conglomerate which has business interests in everything from oil, banking, IT, cyber security to healthcare, real estate and media. He obtained Swiss citizenship in 2000 and settled in Switzerland, from where he runs the family bank, according to FT.  His older brother Gopichand, the UK’s richest man, controls the group’s affairs from London, while their younger brother Ashok runs the group’s Indian interests.

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