Who Are The Hindujas and Why Were They Sentenced to Jail

Four members of the Hinduja family, billionaires originally from India, were convicted on Friday for “illegally exploiting poorly paid servants” at their lavish villa in Geneva, Switzerland. The elder Hindujas, Prakash Hinduja (78) and Kamal Hinduja (75), who missed the trial due to health issues, were each sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison. As reported, Ajay and his wife, who were also not present in court, were given slightly shorter sentences of 4 years.

Family scion Ajay Hinduja, his wife Namrata, and his parents were found guilty of exploiting staff hired in India by paying them wages that were only a fraction of the standard rate in Switzerland.

On Friday, the Hinduja family’s business manager, Najib Ziazi, received an 18-month suspended sentence as the fifth accused in the case. Following the verdict, the Hindujas expressed disappointment with the Swiss court’s decision to impose prison sentences on certain family members in Geneva. They announced their intention to appeal the verdict, which found them guilty of exploiting vulnerable domestic workers.

The Hindujas are a prominent family known for their business empire, originating from India. Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja started a commodities-trading business in 1914 in Sindh, British India, which was later diversified by his four sons. They achieved early success by distributing Bollywood films globally. Srichand Hinduja, the eldest son, passed away in 2023.

Following Srichand’s passing, his brothers Gopichand, Prakash, and Ashok remained. Earlier disputes over the family’s wealth with Srichand and his daughter Vinoo were resolved in 2022.

The Hinduja family, influential in finance, media, and energy sectors, holds stakes in six publicly traded Indian companies. Their combined wealth exceeds $14 billion, placing them among Asia’s top 20 richest families.

Prakash Hinduja and his brothers oversee a diverse industrial conglomerate spanning IT, media, power, real estate, and healthcare. Forbes estimates the family’s net worth at around $20 billion.

What are the charges against Hinduja Family?

Regarding the charges, family members were accused of seizing workers’ passports, restricting their freedom by preventing them from leaving their Geneva villa, and compelling them to work long hours for low wages in Switzerland. Additionally, some workers, who spoke only Hindi, were allegedly paid in rupees deposited into inaccessible bank accounts in India.

The Hinduja family’s legal team refuted the accusations, asserting in court that their staff were treated with respect and provided appropriate accommodations.

A Swiss court dismissed more serious charges of human trafficking against 79-year-old tycoon Prakash Hinduja, his wife Kamal, son Ajay, and daughter-in-law Namrata, citing that the workers had some awareness of their working conditions.

Recently, it came to light in court that the family had reached a confidential settlement with the plaintiffs. Swiss authorities have seized diamonds, rubies, a platinum necklace, and other valuables and assets to potentially cover legal fees and penalties.

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More details of the current case

According to a report, the Hinduja family’s conviction stems from a case that originated in 2018. Swiss prosecutors launched an investigation following a tip-off, which led to raids on the family’s villa in Geneva, offices of Hinduja Bank, and other local businesses owned by the Hinduja Group. During these raids, authorities seized documents and hard drives as part of their investigation. These actions ultimately formed the basis of the legal proceedings that resulted in the convictions of certain family members for exploitation-related charges.

The court found the four Hindujas guilty of exploiting workers by providing unauthorized employment, offering minimal health benefits, and paying wages significantly below the standard rate for such jobs in Switzerland.

Prosecutors detailed that workers described experiencing a “climate of fear” created by Kamal Hinduja. They were allegedly compelled to work long hours without adequate vacation time, often catering to extended receptions, and reportedly slept in the basement, sometimes on mattresses on the floor.

The Geneva court acknowledged that the Hindujas took advantage of the workers’ lack of local language skills and understanding of Swiss labor laws, resulting in them working up to 18 hours daily, seven days a week, without proper breaks or entitlements, and for wages far below Swiss standards.

Furthermore, it was revealed that the Hindujas employed the workers without valid Swiss documentation, instead relying on repeatedly renewed short-term Schengen-zone EU visas. This was allegedly done intentionally to mislead Swiss authorities and circumvent local employment regulations.

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