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UK richest family sent to prison for exploiting domestic staff

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A Swiss court handed jail sentences on Friday to four members of Britain’s richest family, the Hindujas, branding them “selfish” for exploiting Indian staff at their Geneva mansion.

Lawyers for the members of the Swiss-Indian family — who were not present in court — said they would appeal the verdict.

The Hindujas were acquitted of human trafficking, but convicted on other charges in a stunning verdict for the family whose fortune is estimated at 37 billion pounds ($47 billion).

Prakash Hinduja and Kamal Hinduja, his wife, each got four years and six months, while their son Ajay and his wife Namrata received four-year terms, the presiding judge in Geneva ruled.

Trouble started for the family when they were accused of bringing servants from their native India and maltreating them.

They would impound their passports once they arrived in Switzerland, restrict them from leaving the house and pay them a pittance.

They denied the allegations, and counter-accused the prosecutors of trying to “do in the Hindujas”.

They later reached a confidential out-of-court settlement with the three employees who made the accusations against them.

Nonetheless, the prosecution went ahead to try the Hundujas due to the gravity of the charges.

Geneva prosecutor, Yves Bertossa, had requested a custodial sentence of five and a half years against Prakash and Kamal Hinduja.

Aged 78 and 75 respectively, both had been absent since the start of the trial for health reasons.

In his closing address, the prosecutor accused the family of abusing the “asymmetrical situation” between a powerful employer and a vulnerable employee to save money.

Household staff were paid a salary between 220 and 400 francs ($250-450) a month, far below what they could expect to earn in Switzerland.

“They’re profiting from the misery of the world,” Bertossa told the court.

Hinduja family’s defence lawyers countered this, arguing that the three plaintiffs received ample benefits, were not kept in isolation and were free to leave the villa.

“We are not dealing with mistreated slaves,” Nicolas Jeandin told the court.

Indeed, the employees “were grateful to the Hindujas for offering them a better life”, his fellow lawyer Robert Assael argued.

Representing Ajay Hinduja, lawyer Yael Hayat had slammed the “excessive” indictment, arguing the trial should be a question of “justice, not social justice”.

Namrata Hinduja’s lawyer Romain Jordan also pleaded for acquittal, claiming the prosecutors were aiming to make an example of the family.

He argued the prosecution had failed to mention payments made to staff on top of their cash salaries.

“No employee was cheated out of his or her salary,” Assael added

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