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Hindujas reach financial settlement in domestic worker abuse trial

A group of people are walking on a city street.
Members of the Hinduja family and their lawyers arriving at the Geneva courthouse on Monday. Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi

An agreement was reached on Thursday between the parties involved in the Hinduja family trial before the Geneva Criminal Court. This confidential arrangement results in the withdrawal of the three plaintiffs from the criminal and civil proceedings.  

In the absence of plaintiffs, the trial continues, as human trafficking by trade is prosecuted ex officio. “It doesn’t change anything”, said the prosecutor Yves Bertossa, who will deliver his closing arguments on Monday. The defense case will follow. Bound by a confidentiality clause, the parties have made no comment on the settlement.  

Four members of this wealthy family of Indian origin have been on trial since Monday before the Geneva Criminal Court. They are accused of having exploited domestic staff for years at their property in Cologny in canton Geneva. The father, Prakash Hinduja (aged 78), and his wife Kamal (75) did not appear at the hearing, but their son Ajay (56) and daughter-in-law Namrata (50) did.  

Shortly before the announcement of the financial agreement, which had been in the air since the opening of the trial, three witnesses called by the defense spoke highly of the family. Two very old friends spoke of the “generosity” and “kindness” of an “always welcoming” family.  

Low pay, difficult working conditions  

The fourth day of the long-awaited trial began with a lengthy interview with one of the former household employees. When asked about her expectations of the trial, the 51-year-old Indian woman explained that she wanted to be paid for her work and demanded justice.

This ex-employee was paid 10,000 Indian rupees (CHF106) a month in cash when she worked at the Cologny property between 2009 and 2016. Her salary was subsequently increased at her request, but she was unable to say by how much, as the sum was paid directly to her family in India.  

She explained that she returned to the country in 2012 for her daughter’s wedding and childbirth. Otherwise, she returned to India about three weeks a year. She specified that she could not choose the period and duration of her vacations. She never went to school and was married at 15 to a man who beat her.  

In response to questions from the president of the court, she said she left the villa once or twice a year to go for a walk by the lake. The Hinduja daughter-in-law allowed her to go out, but not the mother who had hired her, she explained. In 2016, she left the Hinduja family to work in another house in Geneva.  

Numerous appeals  

According to the indictment issued by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the employees had to work every day, with no days off, no compensation for overtime, and vacations imposed and unpaid. They were paid miserable wages. The defendants have contested these accusations.  

+ Read more: Hinduja family to stand trial in Switzerland for exploiting domestic help

The trial was adjourned earlier this year. Opened in 2018, the proceedings have been the subject of numerous appeals by the defense. The Hindujas are a powerful family of Indian origin, at the head of a conglomerate with activities in industry, finance, IT services, healthcare and real estate.  

Adapted from German by DeepL/kc/ac

This news story has been written and carefully fact-checked by an external editorial team. At SWI swissinfo.ch we select the most relevant news for an international audience and use automatic translation tools such as DeepL to translate it into English. Providing you with automatically translated news gives us the time to write more in-depth articles. 

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