Indian-origin couple jailed in UK for 33 years was wanted for Gujarat murders
Arti Dhir, 59, and her husband Kavaljitsinh Raijada, 35, both residents of Hanwell, London, have been sentenced to 33 years each for exporting £700 million worth of cocaine to Australia between 2019 and 2021. The couple had escaped being extradited to India over the murders of their adopted son and his brother-in-law in Gujarat.
The couple's 11-year-old adopted son, Gopal Sejani, was kidnapped by two men on motorbikes, stabbed, and left by a road in Gujarat in 2017. Harsukh Kardani, the Gopal's brother-in-law, was also attacked while trying to save him. Both succumbed to their injuries at a hospital.
The couple faced multiple charges, including conspiracy to murder and kidnapping, in the February 2017 Gujarat case.
The allegations suggested that they arranged for Gopal Sejani to be killed to claim a £150,000 insurance payout. Gopal used to stay with his sister and brother-in-law Harsukh.
The couple managed to escape being extradited to India, avoiding charges related to the double murder, by convincing UK courts that the potential life sentence in Gujarat would violate their human rights.
BREAKING BAD-STYLE CARWASH
Dhir and Raijada successfully smuggled nearly seven tonne of cocaine into Australia, utilising a 'Breaking Bad'-style carwash to launder the proceeds.
The couple's illicit activities were brought to light when Australian authorities intercepted the drugs and alerted the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA).
The subsequent NCA investigation not only uncovered 514kg (0.6 tonnes) of cocaine, valued at £57 million in the Australian market, but also revealed the couple's involvement in a sophisticated operation using a front company, Viefly Freight Services, to ship drugs globally via commercial planes hidden in metal toolboxes.
Both Dhir and Raijada had prior experience in the airline and freight industry, having worked at Heathrow Airport. The NCA believed their expertise was exploited to carry out their criminal operations.
Dhir, who had worked at Heathrow Airport from 2003 to 2016, and Raijada, employed by the same company from 2014 to 2016, allegedly exploited their knowledge of air freight procedures for their criminal operations.
Despite their denial of charges related to cocaine exportation and money laundering, a jury convicted them on 12 counts of exportation and 18 counts of money laundering after a trial on January 29.
£3 MILLION IN CASH, £800,000 HOUSE AND LAND ROVER
Upon arrest in June 2021 at their residence in Hanwell, London, police discovered significant amounts of cash, gold-plated silver bars, and conducted further searches that unveiled almost £3 million in cash hidden in various locations.
The couple had also acquired assets such as an £800,000 house in Ealing and a £62,000 Land Rover, despite declaring minimal profits to HMRC. Investigations revealed deposits of almost £740,000 in cash across 22 different bank accounts since 2019, leading to additional money laundering charges.
In a detailed sentencing, Judge Edward Connell highlighted the couple's roles as masterminds behind the criminal enterprise, emphasising their exploitation of weaknesses in the system for financial gain.
BRITISH-INDIAN COUPLE JAILED FOR 33 YEARS BY UK COURT
The judge sentenced them both to 33 years in jail and said: 'Drugs are a menace to society. People commit crimes under the influence of drugs. They bring misery and health problems to their users,' reported by The DailyMail.
Detective Superintendent Faux of the New South Wales Police Force Organised Crime Squad praised the collaboration between Australian and UK authorities, the importance of such international cooperation in tackling global criminal networks.
The couple's legal history includes previous attempts by India to secure their extradition for the double murder charges.
However, UK courts ruled against it, citing potential human rights violations, as Gujarat's penalty for double murder is life in prison without parole.
In defence of Dhir, her lawyer, Kane Sharpe, argued against her high-level involvement in the drug-smuggling ring, highlighting her lack of previous convictions and her history of seeking lawful employment.
Sharpe conveyed Dhir's respect for the jury's verdict but also expressed her apology for the situation, inviting the court to consider the most lenient sentence possible.