Britain’s richest family Hindujas ‘spent more on dog than they paid servant’

Namrata and Ajay Hinduja paid servant as little as £6.20 for 18-hour workdays, Swiss court told

Maroosha Muzaffar
Tuesday 18 June 2024 15:53 BST
Ajay Hinduja and his wife Namrata arrive at the court in Geneva
Ajay Hinduja and his wife Namrata arrive at the court in Geneva (EPA)

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Britain’s richest family has been accused of egregious mistreatment of domestic staff at their Lake Geneva villa.

Prosecutor Yves Bertossa told a Swiss court the billionaire Hinduja family spent more on their pet dog than on one of their servants, who earned as little as £6.20 for gruelling 18-hour workdays, seven days a week.

He cited a budget document titled “pets” that showed the family allocated 8,584 Swiss francs (£7,641) annually for their pet dog.

Mr Bertossa also noted the absence of specified working hours or days off in the staff contracts, arguing that the employees were essentially at the family’s beck and call, with confiscated passports limiting their freedom.

In defence, the Hinduja family’s lawyers said the staff were treated respectfully and had accommodation provided.

“The salary can’t simply be reduced to what they were paid in cash” as food and lodging were covered, said Yael Hayat, a lawyer for family scion Ajay Hinduja. Eighteen-hour working days was also an exaggeration, she said.

The family’s lawyers argued that some employees voluntarily returned to work in Geneva multiple times, implying satisfaction with their conditions compared to their situations in India.

A budget document allocated more than £7,000 annually for their pet dog
A budget document allocated more than £7,000 annually for their pet dog (EPA)

The prosecutors sought prison sentences for Mr Hinduja and his wife Namrata, along with an order for the family to pay 1 million Swiss francs in court costs and contribute 3.5 million francs to a compensation fund for the staff.

The defence said Mr Bertossa’s allegations were misleading and asserted that the family’s hiring practices had been improved and now adhered to local regulations. During the trial, Mr Hinduja testified that he was not well informed about the staff’s working conditions because their recruitment was managed by the Hinduja Group in India.

But they had since stopped informal payment practices and all hiring was now done locally through a third party.

“You won’t find a single employee who says they were hired by Ajay,” Hayat told the court. “The reality is he knows nothing as he was elsewhere.”

Mr Bertossa sought severe penalties, including over five years of imprisonment for senior family members and significant financial penalties.

He also criticised absence from the trial of senior family members Prakash and Kamal Hinduja suggesting it reflected contempt for the legal process.

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