Billionaire Family in Legal Trouble Over Alleged Human Trafficking

( – A Swiss court has jailed a billionaire and three of his relatives in a case that’s shocked the small European nation. Prakash Hinduja, his wife, and two other family members have been convicted of exploiting staff at their luxury home. Now they face years in prison.

Prakash Hinduja was a classic example of a successful global business tycoon. Born in Iran to wealthy parents from the Sindh region of India (which is now in Pakistan) in 1945, he went to university and then worked in the family business’s Tehran branch briefly before moving to Geneva, Switzerland, to take over the Hinduja Group’s European branch. Now, at 79, he and his two brothers run the vast company, which employs more than 200,000 people.

The media like to call Hinduja Britain’s richest man, but in fact, he’s a Swiss citizen. As well as his main home in Monaco, he has a shoreline villa beside Switzerland’s Lake Geneva. In 2007, he was convicted of exploiting Indian workers, bringing them in as staff at the Swiss house then confiscating their passports, restricting their movements, and paying them in Indian rupees paid into Indian bank accounts they couldn’t access. On June 21, the Geneva Criminal Court convicted him of doing the same thing again.

This time the court tried Hinduja, his wife Kamal, his son Ajay, his daughter-in-law Namrata, and his business manager Najib Ziazi on charges of human trafficking, exploitation of workers, and providing unauthorized employment. The court heard that Kamal Hinduja created a “climate of fear” among the staff, who worked up to 18 hours a day and slept on mattresses in the basement.

Meanwhile, workers were paid a fraction of Swiss wages and didn’t get health benefits. In 2007, Hinduja was fined for similar offenses, but Swiss courts take a dim view of repeat offenders; this time the four family members were sentenced to between 48 and 54 months in prison. Ziazi received an 18-month suspended sentence. Lawyers for the family say they’ll appeal.

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