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The Hindujas: Worth $20 bn, they paid only Rs. 600 per day to domestic help!

The Hindujas: Worth $20 bn, they paid only Rs. 600 per day to domestic help!

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: The United Kingdom’s wealthiest family, the Hindujas with a net worth of around USD 20 billion, have found themselves in the thick of a controversy that could mar their reputation.

They are facing trial in Geneva, Switzerland, on accusations of human trafficking and exploiting staff at their Swiss villa, the media reported on Wednesday.

Four members of the family have been accused of confiscating the passports of their staff members and paying them as little as Indian rupees 600 for long hours of work daily.

According to the prosecutors, the Hinduja family spent much more on their pet dog than they paid one of their staff. Swiss prosecutor Yves Bertossa stated that the family’s annual expenses on their dog amounted to 8,584 Swiss francs (INR 8,09,399), whereas some staff allegedly worked up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, for as little as 7 Swiss francs (INR 660) per day.

The family allegedly confiscated the passports of their staff members from India, restricting their freedom to leave the premises without permission. This potentially constitutes human trafficking under Swiss law.

Ironically, their staff were paid in Indian currency, leaving them without money in Switzerland. Contracts for the staff reportedly did not specify working hours or days off but required them to be available as needed by the family. This lack of clarity contributed to the alleged exploitation, the prosecutor argued.

However, the Hindujas’ defense counsel stated the family treated their staff with respect and provided them with accommodation and meals as part of their compensation. They pointed out the staff returned to work for the family repeatedly, which, they argued, showed that they were satisfied with their working conditions.

Representing the Hindujas, Romain Jordan denied the allegations, saying the family was not directly involved in hiring or managing their staff. He accused prosecutors of bias against the billionaire family, stating that no other family would be treated this way.

But prosecutors are not relenting. They are now asking for lengthy prison sentences for Prakash Hinduja, his wife Kamal, their son Ajay, and his wife Namrata. They also want the family to pay 1 million Swiss francs for court costs and set up a 3.5 million francs compensation fund for the staff affected, the media reported.

The Hindujas oversee the multinational conglomerate, the Hinduja Group, which spans diverse sectors such as shipping, banking, media, and more. They also hold significant real estate assets in London, including the prestigious Raffles London Hotel.


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