U.K.’s Richest Family Spent More on Dog Than Paying Staff, Court Hears

Gabriel Monnet/AFP via Getty Images
Gabriel Monnet/AFP via Getty Images

The richest family in the United Kingdom is facing a reckoning in Swiss court over allegations that they subjected servants to deplorable conditions and engaged in outright human trafficking.

Earlier this week, Swiss prosecutor Yves Bertossa accused four members of the Hinduja family of spending more per year on their dog than on pay for members of their staff.

In the most egregious case, prosecutors said, a staff member was allegedly paid less than $8 “to work for up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week,” The Telegraph reported.

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The Hinduja family members are also accused of denying their employees freedom of mobility by taking their passports and preventing them from leaving “the house without their employer’s permission.”

The Hinduja clan is worth $20 billion, according to Forbes. Their marquee company, Hinduja Group, holds assets in numerous industries, including telecommunications and trucking. They also maintain a portfolio of luxury real estate in the U.K.

Lawyers for the Hinduja family say they have been subjected to unfair scrutiny. “No other family would have been treated in this way. Our clients remain determined to defend themselves and have confidence in the judicial system,” attorney Romain Jordan said.

The billionaires’ representatives also claim that the employment arrangements have been distorted.

According to The Telegraph, a lawyer for defendant Ajay Hinduja argued that portions of the allegedly ultra-long shifts were in fact recreational. “When they sit down to watch a movie with the kids, can that be considered work? I think not,” the attorney asserted.

Some members of the staff also felt their compensation was better than they might otherwise have earned in India, the defense argued, adding that one particular employee returned to Switzerland several times.

The prosecution is simply trying to “break the rich to make the poor less poor,” Ajay Hinduja’s attorney said.

The defense further argued that staffers’ salaries “can’t simply be reduced to what they were paid in cash,” since they were not asked to pay for their food or housing.

Nevertheless, the Hindujas have modified their approach to hiring and have ceased “informal payment practices.” They blamed some of the allegations on the initial hiring decisions in India.

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