Meet UKs wealthiest family and why four members are being jailed

Prakash and Kamal Hinduja, along with their son Ajay and his wife Namrata, have been sentenced for exploiting staff brought over from India to work at their luxurious villa in Geneva.

Hinduja Family
The four were accused of seizing workers’ passports, paying them in rupees – not Swiss francs. Photo culled fron Daily Ausaf

UK’s richest family, the Hindujas, will have four of their family members behind bars for the exploitation of their staff, according to several reports. Prakash and Kamal Hinduja, along with their son Ajay and his wife Namrata, have been sentenced for exploiting staff brought over from India to work at their luxurious villa in Geneva.

The Hinduja family and the multi-billion pounds Hinduja Group

The Hinduja family, renowned for their enormous business empire that spans several sects, is estimated to be worth £37 billion, ranking first on the Sunday Times list of the 350 richest persons in the UK.

Hinduja Group Ltd. is an Indian transnational conglomerate. According to the company’s website, the business was “founded on principles laid out by the Founder Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja” adding that “the Hinduja Group has become one of the largest diversified groups in the world.”

The multinational group operates in eleven industries ranging from banking, oil and gas, to IT.

The company, founded in 1914 by Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja, initially operated in Shikarpur and Bombay, India. The group expanded internationally in Iran in 1919 and relocated to Europe in 1979 as a result of the Islamic Revolution.

Over 200, 000 people have been employed in the group which has several offices scattered across major cities worldwide.

Why are they being charged and sentenced by a Swiss court?

The Hinduja family was found guilty of exploitation and illegal employment by a Swiss court, and they were sentenced to four and a half years. They were acquitted of the more serious charge of human trafficking. The defendants’ lawyers have announced their intention to appeal the decision, with defence counsel Robert Assael claiming that they will “fight it to the bitter end.”

Allegations of exploitation: Spending more on pets than servants?

Three Indian labourers said they were paid as little as £7 ($8) every 18-hour workweek, much below Switzerland’s legal minimum. They also claimed that their passports had been confiscated and that they were rarely permitted to leave the home, which is located in Geneva’s wealthy Cologny district. Prosecutors pointed out that the family spent more money on their dog than on the workers.

Defence’s arguments

The defence, however, argued that the labourers were free to leave the villa after receiving sufficient benefits, such as lodging and food. They maintained that the workers were appreciative of the chances the Hinduja family had given them. The court decided in favour of the prosecution on the allegations of exploitation and illegal employment in spite of these reasons.

Health and attendance

Due to health issues, Prakash and Kamal Hinduja, both over 70, were unable to attend the court hearings; Ajay and Namrata, on the other hand, were present but did not stay for the announcement of the ruling. The judge rejected the prosecution’s plea to place the younger couple in detention right away after the verdict.

Geneva’s past of mistreating its servants

In a broader context, Geneva has already come under fire for mistreating its domestic help. Libya’s former dictator’s son, Hannibal Gaddafi, was taken into custody in 2008 following claims that he had beaten his servants. More recently, in 2023, a complaint for unpaid wages was filed by four Filipino domestic workers against a diplomatic post stationed in Geneva. Geneva is a wealthy city well-known for its international organisations, but the Hinduja case continues to highlight some of its less desirable sides.

More from Qonversations

Featured

African Ant

Did you know? Ants are the first non-human surgeons

Featured

Paraguay Museum

Art Heist: The $200 million robbery that shook Paraguay

Featured

Apples peach and ras

Did you know? Apples, peaches, and raspberries are all members of the rose family

Featured

Space Debris from China

Explainer: What is space debris and why countries in the Global South are more at risk?

Front of mind