After four family members of the wealthiest Hinduja Group were found guilty of exploiting their domestic workers at their home in Geneva, Switzerland, Britain's richest business family has issued a statement, saying they are “appalled” by a Swiss court's verdict and have filed an appeal against the verdict.

A court in Geneva, in a ruling on Friday, convicted four members of the Hinduja family including family scion Ajay Hinduja and his wife Namrata, and his parents Prakash (78) and Kamal (75) for taking unfair advantage and exploiting their servants.

The court has given a four-and-a-half-year sentence to the parents, while their son and daughter-in-law have been jailed for four years. None of them were present in the courtroom when the verdict was pronounced. Ajay and Namrata cited the ill health of Ajay’s parents as the reason for not attending the hearing. The Swiss court also sentenced family manager Najib Ziazi to an 18-month jail term.

The court found the family members guilty of underpaying their servants, who were hired from India. These family staff members were reportedly paid below the standard wage rate in the European country.

What family says on court ruling

The family has issued a statement through their lawyers in Switzerland that they were "appalled and disappointed” with the verdict. The lawyers stressed that all four had been acquitted of human trafficking charges and denied the reports of the detention of any of the family members.

"We are appalled and disappointed by the rest of the decision made in this court of first instance, and we have of course filed an appeal to the higher court thereby making this part of the judgement not effective. Under Swiss law, the presumption of innocence is paramount till a final judgement by the highest adjudicating authority is enforced. Contrary to some media reports, there is no effective detention for any members of the family," Advocates, Yael Hayat and Robert Assael and Romain Jordan, said in a media statement.

According to agency reports, the Hindujas had reached an out-of-court settlement with the three workers who had accused them of exploitation. However, the prosecutors pursued the case considering the seriousness of the charges against the family.

Even after reaching a settlement during the trial, the Swiss court has ordered the Hinduja family to pay 850,000 francs (around ($950,000) in compensation. They have also been asked to pay legal fees worth 270,000 francs.

Allegations against Hindujas

  • While reading the verdict, Judge Sabina Mascotto said that domestic helps were paid disproportionately.

  • The judge said the family had confiscated the passports of their servants and paid them in Indian rupees in their Indian accounts quarterly or after six months. These Indian accounts were not physically accessible to them.

  • The workers were reportedly paid between ₹22,000-37,500 (or 220 and 400 francs) per month. The wages are around 90% less than what they should have received as per the wage standards in Switzerland.

  • The court said the Hinduja family members were well aware of the laws in Switzerland and despite that, they exploited the staff, who could only speak Hindi and didn't know English or the Swiss language. Their passports were also allegedly confiscated by the family.

  • The case pertains to a 2018 raid at the Hinduja family's house when prosecutors had acted on a tip-off and seized crucial evidence and valuable assets to cover legal fees.

How big is Hinduja group

Gopi Hinduja & family are the richest family in the U.K., the 2024 edition of the The Sunday Times Rich List, published in May 2024, shows. Their total wealth is estimated at £37.196 billion, which has grown from £35 billion in 2023.

The foundation of the Hinduja Group was laid by Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja, a self-made entrepreneur from the fabled town of Shikarpur (then in undivided India) in Sindh province of Pakistan. He had opened a merchant banking and trade office in Iran (the first outside India) in 1919. The group remained headquartered in Iran till 1979 and then moved to Europe.

The business under his four sons, Srichand and Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok Hinduja became one of the largest diversified groups in the world spanning all the continents. The eldest son Srichand passed away in 2023. The group has interests in banking & finance, mobility and energy, as well as the new economy sectors of technology, media and renewables.

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