Domestic workers exploitation: Hindujas ‘appalled’ by Swiss court’s jail term order; File appeal

PTI, Jun 22, 2024, 12:28 PM IST

Britain’s wealthiest family, the Hindujas, on Friday said they were “appalled” by a Swiss court’s ruling of jail terms for some members in Geneva and that an appeal has been filed in a higher court challenging the verdict finding them guilty of exploiting vulnerable domestic workers.

In a statement issued on behalf of the family, lawyers from Switzerland stressed their clients – Prakash and Kamal Hinduja, both in their 70s, and their son Ajay and his wife Namrata – had been acquitted of all human trafficking charges. They also dismissed media reporting that any members of the family faced detention after court reports from Geneva said the four were sentenced to between four and four-and-a-half years in prison.

“Our clients have been acquitted of all human trafficking charges. 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,” reads the statement signed by lawyers Yael Hayat and Robert Assael and Roman Jordan.

“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,” they said.

The lawyers also pointed out that “it should also be recalled that the plaintiffs in this case had withdrawn their respective complaints after declaring to the court that they had never intended to be involved in such proceedings”.

“The family has full faith in the judicial process and remains confident that the truth will prevail,” they conclude.

The statement followed a hearing in the Swiss city of Geneva after prosecutors opened the case for alleged illegal activity including exploitation, human trafficking and violation of Switzerland’s labour laws.

The family members were accused of seizing the workers’ passports, barring them from leaving the villa and forcing them to work very long hours for a pittance in Switzerland, among other things. Some workers allegedly spoke only Hindi and were paid their wages in rupees in banks back home that they could not access.

The family’s legal team had countered the allegations and told the court the staff were treated respectfully and provided with accommodation.

According to ‘The Sunday Times Rich List’ released last month, the UK-based Hinduja family once again emerged as the country’s richest with wealth estimated at around GBP 37.196 billion.

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