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Rediff.com  » News » Swiss court sentences Hindujas to jail, family files appeal

Swiss court sentences Hindujas to jail, family files appeal

By Aditi Khanna
Last updated on: June 22, 2024 21:51 IST
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Britain's wealthiest family, the Hindujas, have said they are 'appalled' by a Swiss court's ruling of jail terms for some members and have filed an appeal in a higher court challenging the verdict finding them guilty of exploiting vulnerable domestic workers from India employed at their villa in Geneva.

 

A spokesperson for the affected family members, Kamal and Prakash Hinduja and their son Ajay and his wife Namrata -- who are all Swiss nationals, pointed out on Saturday that neither of them have been subjected to any 'imprisonment, conviction, sentence or detention'.

"Per Swiss law procedures, the lower court's judgement is rendered ineffective and inoperative as the presumption of innocence is paramount until and unless a final judgment by the highest adjudicating authority is enforced," the family's spokesperson said.

 

"It may be noted that the case has no complainants left anymore and they had declared in the court that they were led into signing statements that they didn't even understand. They had neither intended to nor initiated such proceedings. All of them further testified that the four Hinduja Family Members treated them with 'respect, dignity and like family'," the spokesperson added.

Earlier on Friday, in a statement issued on behalf of the family by their lawyers from Switzerland stressed their clients had been acquitted of all human trafficking charges.

They also dismissed media reports 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 statements follow 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 in India that they could not access.

During the trial, prosecutors alleged the family spent more on their dog than on their servants.

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.

They saw this tally increase over the previous year in the wake of the opening of the brand-new luxury OWO Raffles Hotel in the heart of London.

The UK-based family's group of companies, headed by chairman G P Hinduja, operates in 48 countries and across several sectors - automotive, oil and specialty chemicals, banking and finance, IT, cyber security, healthcare, trading, infrastructure project development, media and entertainment, power, and real estate.

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Aditi Khanna
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