Geneva. A Swiss court on Friday sentenced four members of the Indian-origin billionaire Hinduja family to four to four and a half years in prison after finding them guilty of exploiting their domestic workers. However, serious charges like human trafficking were dismissed. Also read: T20 World Cup: West Indies beat USA by 9 wickets, achieved the target in the 11th over itself…

The charges against Indian-origin businessman Prakash Hinduja and his wife, son and daughter-in-law included confiscating the passports of most of the uneducated Indians working at their luxurious lakeside villa in Geneva. The Hinduja couple paid the workers in banks at home not in Swiss francs but in Indian rupees, which they could not use.

Lawyers said about appeal

The four were not present in court in Geneva when the sentencing was announced, however, the fifth defendant – the family’s business manager Najib Ziazi – was present. He received an 18-month suspended sentence. Lawyers representing the defendants said they would appeal.

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The court said the four were guilty of exploiting the workers and providing them with unauthorized employment, such as giving them very few health benefits and paying them less than one-tenth the wages for such jobs in Switzerland. The domestic workers were also prevented from leaving the villa and were forced to work very long hours, among other things.

Husband and wife sentenced to four and a half years

Prakash Hinduja and his wife Kamal each received 4 1/2 years in prison, while their son Ajay and his wife Namrata were each sentenced to four years. The trial began on June 10. It was revealed in court last week that the family had reached an undisclosed settlement with the plaintiffs. Geneva prosecutors opened the case for alleged illegal activity including exploitation, human trafficking and violations of Swiss labor laws.

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The family moved to Switzerland in the late 1980s, and Prakash was convicted in 2007 on similar, but lesser, charges, with prosecutors saying he also employed people without proper paperwork.

Property has been confiscated

Swiss authorities have already seized diamonds, rubies, a platinum necklace and other jewellery and property from the family, in the hope they can be used to pay legal fees and possible penalties. Prosecutors said employees – in jobs such as cooks or domestic help – were at times forced to work up to 18 hours a day with little or no time off.

Salary was received in rupees

Prosecutors said employees worked long hours at the reception and slept in the basement of the villa in the Cologne neighborhood — sometimes on mattresses on the floor. They described an “atmosphere of fear” established by Kamal Hinduja. Some employees reportedly spoke only Hindi, and were paid salaries in Indian rupees in banks back home that they could not access.

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A separate case is already pending

A separate tax case brought by Swiss authorities is pending against Prakash Hinduja, who obtained Swiss citizenship in 2000. Along with three brothers, he leads an industrial group in sectors including information technology, media, power, real estate and healthcare. Forbes magazine currently estimates the Hinduja family’s net worth at around $20 billion.