Swiss verdict expected in trafficking trial of UK's richest family

An accusation does not equate to a guilty verdict.

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — Four members of Britain's richest family, accused of human trafficking and exploitation of staff at their Geneva mansion, will have their fate decided Friday in a Swiss court.

Prosecutors said the Hindujas – whose fortune is estimated at £37 billion ($47 billion) by the Sunday Times – spent more money on their dog than on their servants.

The accusations stem from the family's practice of importing servants from their native India.

The judgment is expected at 4 p.m. local time (2 p.m. GMT).

Prakash and Kamal Hinduja, along with their son Ajay and his wife Namrata, are accused of confiscating their servants' passports once they were flown to Switzerland.

Prosecutors say the Hindujas paid their staff a pittance and gave servants little freedom to leave the house.

The family denies the allegations, saying prosecutors wanted to “play Hindujas.”

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

Despite this, the prosecution decided to continue the case due to the seriousness of the accusations.

The first prosecutor of Geneva, Yves Bertossa, 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 speech, the prosecutor accused the family of abusing the “asymmetrical situation” between a powerful employer and a vulnerable employee to save money.

Domestic workers received a monthly salary of between 220 and 400 francs ($250 to $450), well below what they could expect to earn in Switzerland.

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

But defense lawyers for the Hinduja family argued that the three plaintiffs received large allowances, were not kept in solitary confinement 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,” says his colleague Robert Assael.

Representing Ajay Hinduja, lawyer Yael Hayat criticized the “excessive” indictment, arguing that the trial should be about “justice, not social justice.”

His wife Namrata's lawyer, Romain Jordan, also argued for acquittal, saying prosecutors wanted to make an example of the family.

He argued that the prosecution did not mention payments made to staff in addition to their cash salaries.

“No employee has been deprived of their salary,” added Assael.

Some employees even asked for raises, which they received.

With interests in oil and gas, banking and healthcare, the Hinduja Group operates in 38 countries and employs around 200,000 people.

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