Hinduja lawyers say human trafficking indictment is flawed

Members of the billionaire Hinduja family charged with human trafficking over the mistreatment of their domestic staff said that the Swiss indictment against them is deeply flawed and must be sent back to prosecutors for re-examination, Bloomberg reports 

The 43-page indictment issued last year cites and relies on the experience of people who worked for the family but have never been interviewed by lawyers for the family, Yael Hayat, a lawyer for Ajay Hinduja, told a Geneva court on Monday.

They’ve never been properly heard and yet the prosecutor’s indictment “is based on the premise that those people recruited are clearly considered as victims of human trafficking,” said Hayat.  

The indictment alleges that the family made their staff work between 15 to 18-hour days, seven days a week, that their passports were confiscated and that they worked on the basis of short-term tourist visas obtained on false pretenses, over and over again. Their salaries never amounted to more than a few hundred Swiss francs a month, a fraction of local wages, prosecutors allege.

Lawyers for Ajay, his father Prakash, mother Kamal and wife Namrata, have attempted to stop the trial from going ahead. First they demanded the recusal of the judge who they accuse of bias and now argue that there are flaws in the prosecutors’ case that need to be addressed. Last week they filed a criminal complaint against “persons unknown” of forgery of documents in the case and abuse of authority. 

Romain Jordan, Namrata’s lawyer, argued that the refusal of one of the complainants to give up her phone so that its contents could be copied and entered into the case file means that the defense lacks access to important evidence. 

Jordan cited a half-dozen calls made by one of the plaintiffs in early 2018, the year she filed her complaint, some lasting 30 minutes or more, that he said needed to be shared and analyzed by the defense. Overall, the defense said some 2.7 million pieces of evidence from the case haven’t been shared with them, and so the case cannot go to trial. 

“What better than a phone — you have the conversations, the messages, the exchanges between the accused and the plaintiffs,” Hayat said, arguing that the best way to test the accusations of mistreatment is to evaluate that data. 

Jordan said in a previous statement that the charges are based on the prosecutor’s “fantasized” version of events, which contain “serious irregularities and lies” which they would denounce in the coming weeks.

Eleven survivors were rescued from one boat and five others from the second boat though one person died later. Five bodies were also recovered and dozens more were believed to have been lost at sea.