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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
Hinduja brothers: Wealthy and reclusive
By Alastair Lawson
BBC News

After nearly 15 years three of the world's best-known businessmen, all from the Hinduja family, have been cleared of all charges in India's Bofors arms corruption case. BBC News looks at the rise of what has been described as one of the world's most influential families.

Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja in a rare TV interview
Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja in a rare TV interview

The Hinduja brothers boast a network of rich and influential friends that includes senior British politicians former US President Bill Clinton and Queen Elizabeth the Second.

It is difficult to estimate their wealth accurately because their business interests span the globe - from India to Europe and the United States.

But one British newspaper estimated it to be in the region of $8bn.

There are four Hinduja brothers - Srichand and Gopichand who are based in London and are now UK citizens, Prakash in Geneva who is now a Swiss national and Ashok in Bombay who is still an Indian citizen.

Together they have a substantial stake in global finance, telecommunications, film and oil businesses.

Srichand and Gopichand are now estimated by the British press to be the 13th most wealthy people in Britain.

These two brothers are well known not just for their support over the years to the Conservative and Labour parties, but also because of large charitable donations made through their Hinduja Foundation.

Arms case

Although they were born into wealth, the four Hindujas have rapidly expanded their assets.

But since 1990 three of the Hindujas - Srichand, Gopichand and Prakash - have been defending themselves from charges of corruption in one of the biggest bribery cases since India gained independence - the Bofors arms affair.

Peter Mandelson
UK minister Peter Mandelson resigned over Srichand's passport

They were accused of receiving millions of dollars from the Swedish company, Bofors, in return for persuading the government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to buy 400 field guns.

The affair led to the fall of Mr Gandhi's government in 1989 and a criminal investigation. In January 2001 the brothers voluntarily returned to India to give evidence in the case.

Now that case has culminated in the Delhi high court throwing out the charges.

Invisible assets

Srichand and Gopichand moved to London in 1979 and developed their father's import and export business.

Exactly how they were able to do this is not entirely clear, as the brothers have always tended to be reticent about their business and personal lives.

Their fortunes are not held individually, but as the communal property of the House of Hinduja.

They are now estimated to be the most successful self-made Asian immigrants in Britain after steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.

The continuing backdrop of the Bofors case did not prevent Srichand and Gopichand from developing their UK interests.

They have given money for the construction and decoration of at least two Hindu temples in the south-east of England.

More controversially they contributed 1m ($1.5m) to the construction of the ill-fated Millennium Dome on the River Thames, an issue that resulted in the resignation of UK minister Peter Mandelson.

Mr Mandelson, who was in charge of the Dome project, was accused of pulling strings to help Srichand Hinduja secure UK citizenship.

Mr Mandelson stepped down after admitting making misleading statements about Mr Hinduja's passport application. Subsequent inquiries cleared Mr Mandelson of any wrongdoing.




SEE ALSO:
Hindujas acquitted in Bofors case
31 May 05 |  South Asia
Bofors accused dies in India
24 Oct 01 |  South Asia
Hindujas charged in arms bribery case
15 Nov 02 |  South Asia
Bofors man wins extradition case
13 Dec 02 |  South Asia
Rajiv Gandhi cleared over bribery
04 Feb 04 |  South Asia


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