Who are Hindujas? Why were they sentenced to jail? | Explained - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Who are Hindujas? Why were they sentenced to jail? | Explained

Jun 22, 2024 07:07 AM IST

Hinduja family's scion Ajay, his wife Namrata, and his parents – Prakash and Kamal – were found guilty of taking illegal advantage of staff hired in India.

Four members of the Indian-born billionaire Hinduja family were convicted on Friday for “illegally exploiting poorly paid servants” at their luxurious Geneva villa in Switzerland. The elder Hindujas – Prakash Hinduja (78) and Kamal Hinduja (75) – who did not attend the trial due to poor health, were each sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison. According to Bloomberg, Ajay and his wife, absent from the courtroom, received slightly fewer sentences of 4 years.

Indian-Swiss billionaire family members Namrata Hinduja (L) and Ajay Hinduja (2ndR) at the Geneva'ss courthouse with their lawyers Yael Hayat (C) and Robert Assael (R). (File)(AFP)
Indian-Swiss billionaire family members Namrata Hinduja (L) and Ajay Hinduja (2ndR) at the Geneva'ss courthouse with their lawyers Yael Hayat (C) and Robert Assael (R). (File)(AFP)

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

The fifth accused, Najib Ziazi, the Hinduja family's business manager, received an 18-month suspended sentence.

On Friday, the Hindujas expressed their dismay at the Swiss court's decision to impose jail terms on some family members in Geneva. They announced that an appeal has been filed in a higher court to challenge the verdict, which found them guilty of exploiting vulnerable domestic workers, as reported by news agency PTI.

Who are Hindujas?

- Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja founded a commodities-trading business in 1914 in British India's Sindh region, which his four sons quickly diversified. They initially found success distributing Bollywood films internationally. Srichand, the eldest son, passed away in 2023.

- Following Srichand's death, his brothers Gopichand, Prakash, and Ashok remained. The three younger brothers had previously argued with Srichand and his daughter Vinoo over the family's wealth but settled their differences in 2022.

- The Hinduja family has interests in finance, media, and energy sectors and owns stakes in six publicly traded Indian companies. Their collective wealth is at least $14 billion, ranking them among Asia's top 20 wealthiest families.

- Prakash Hinduja and his brothers oversee an industrial conglomerate that spans information technology, media, power, real estate, and healthcare sectors. Forbes estimates the Hinduja family's net worth at approximately $20 billion.

What are the charges?

- Family members were accused of confiscating workers' passports, preventing them from leaving the villa, and forcing them to work extremely long hours for minimal pay in Switzerland. Additionally, some workers, who only spoke Hindi, were paid in rupees to inaccessible bank accounts in their home country.

- The family's legal team denied the allegations, arguing in court that the staff were treated respectfully and provided with proper accommodation.

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

- Last week, it was revealed in court that the family had reached an undisclosed settlement with the plaintiffs. Swiss authorities have confiscated diamonds, rubies, a platinum necklace, and other jewellery and assets to cover potential legal fees and penalties.

More details of the current case

- According to a Bloomberg report, their conviction arose from a case that began in 2018. Swiss prosecutors, acting on a tipoff, raided the villa, Hinduja Bank offices, and other local businesses owned by the Hinduja Group, seizing documents and hard drives.

- The court found the four guilty of exploiting workers, providing unauthorised employment, offering minimal health benefits, and paying wages less than one-tenth of the standard rate for such jobs in Switzerland.

- Prosecutors said that workers described a “climate of fear” created by Kamal Hinduja. They were forced to work with little or no vacation, extended hours for receptions, and slept in the basement, sometimes on mattresses on the floor.

- The Geneva court accepted that the four Hindujas exploited the servants’ lack of local language skills and knowledge, making them work up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, without statutory time off or benefits, for a fraction of the normal Swiss wages.

- The Hindujas employed the workers without proper Swiss documentation, relying on repeatedly renewed short-term Schengen-zone EU visas, in a deliberate attempt to deceive Swiss authorities.

(With inputs from Bloomberg and Associated Press)

Elevate your career with VIT’s MBA programme that has been designed by its acclaimed faculty & stands out as a beacon for working professionals. Explore now!

See more

Stay updated with the latest Business News on Petrol Price, Gold Rate, Income Tax Calculator along with Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Hindustan Times.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, July 24, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On