Four members of Britain's richest family handed jail sentences after exploiting servants in Geneva villa

22 June 2024, 08:46 | Updated: 22 June 2024, 08:57

The four individuals were given sentences ranging from four to four-and-a-half years
The four individuals were given sentences ranging from four to four-and-a-half years. Picture: Alamy & Getty

By Will Conroy

Four members of the UK's richest family have received prison sentences after being found guilty of exploiting vulnerable domestic workers at their Geneva villa.

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Indian-born Prakash Hinduja, as well as his wife Kamal and their son Ajay and his wife Namrata, were found guilty of exploitation and illegal employment by a Swiss court.

The four individuals were given sentences ranging from four to four-and-a-half years but were acquitted on the more serious charge of human trafficking.

The court ruled the servants, who were mostly illiterate Indians and worked at their lakeside villa in Geneva, knew what they were getting into.

Lawyers representing the defendants said they intend to appeal the ruling.

Robert Assael, the lawyer for the defendants, said: "I'm shocked. We're going to fight it to the bitter end."

Lawyers representing the defendants said they intend to appeal the ruling
Lawyers representing the defendants said they intend to appeal the ruling. Picture: Alamy

Three workers alleged the family had paid them just £7 ($8) to work 18-hour days, less than a tenth of what Swiss law requires.

Prosecutors said a "climate of fear" was brought by Kamal Hinduja with the four defendants also being accused of confiscating workers' passports and preventing them from leaving the house in the wealthy neighbourhood of Cologny.

Employees sometimes worked for even longer for receptions and slept in the basement of the villa, sometimes on a mattress on the floor, said prosecutors.

Namrata and Ajay Hinduja attended proceedings
Namrata and Ajay Hinduja attended proceedings. Picture: Getty

Some workers allegedly spoke only Hindi and were paid their wages in Indian rupees in banks back home that they could not access.

Swiss authorities have already seized jewellery and other assets from the family in anticipation they could be used to pay for legal fees and possible penalties.

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Prosecutors alleged the family, whose fortune is estimated at around £37bn, spent more on their dog than on their servants.

Mr Assael argued the employees received ample benefits, were free to leave the villa and "were grateful to the Hindujas for offering them a better life".

The family own Raffles hotel in London
The family own Raffles hotel in London. Picture: Alamy

Despite not being present for the verdict, Ajay and Namrata Hinduja had attended court but Prakash and Kamal, who are both over 70, did not attend proceedings, pleading ill health.

There have been previous cases of alleged mistreatment of servants in Geneva. Last year, four domestic workers from the Philippines against one of Geneva’s diplomatic missions to the United Nations, claiming they had not been paid for years.

The Hinduja family topped the 2024 Sunday Times rich list with a combined wealth of £37.196bn.

They own Hinduja Group, a multinational group with interests in oil, gas, and banking, as well as Raffles hotel in London.

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