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UK’s richest family convicted of exploiting servants

Four members of the UK’s richest family have received prison sentences for exploiting staff brought over from India to work at their Geneva villa.

Prakash and Kamal Hinduja, as well as their son Ajay and his wife Namrata, were found guilty of exploitation and illegal employment by a Swiss court and handed sentences ranging from four to four-and-a-half years.

They were acquitted on the more serious charge of human trafficking.

Lawyers representing the defendants said they intend to appeal against the ruling.

Speaking outside the court, Robert Assael, the lawyer for the defendants, said: “I’m shocked. We’re going to fight it to the bitter end.”

Three workers who were brought over from their native India alleged the family paid them as little as £7 ($8) to work 18-hour days – less than a tenth of the amount required under Swiss law – and confiscated their passports.

They also claimed the family – whose fortune is estimated at around £37bn – rarely allowed them to leave the house, which is in Geneva’s wealthy neighbourhood of Cologny.

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

The defence argued that the employees received ample benefits, were not kept in isolation and were free to leave the villa.

The employees “were grateful to the Hindujas for offering them a better life”, Mr Assael argued.

The elder Hindujas, both over 70, did not attend court proceedings, pleading ill health. Ajay and Namrata did attend court but were not there to hear the verdict.

Following the verdict, the prosecution requested an immediate detention order for the younger Hinduja couple, but this was denied by the judge.

The defence said Kamal Hindula is currently in hospital in Monaco – and the other three family members are at his bedside.

It is not the first time that Geneva, a hub for international organisations as well as the world’s wealthy, has been in the spotlight over the alleged mistreatment of servants.

Last year, four domestic workers from the Philippines launched a case against one of Geneva’s diplomatic missions to the United Nations, claiming they had not been paid for years.

The Hinduja family own the Hinduja Group, a multinational group with interests in oil, gas, and banking.

The family also owns Raffles hotel in London.