Home NEWSCURRENT UPDATE UK-Based Indian-Origin Couple Sentenced to 33 Years for Global Drug Trafficking

UK-Based Indian-Origin Couple Sentenced to 33 Years for Global Drug Trafficking

by Web Desk
UK-Based Indian-Origin Couple Sentenced to 33 Years for Global Drug Trafficking

An Indian-origin couple living in the UK has been sentenced to 33 years in prison each for a crime that spans international borders. Arti Dhir, 59, and Kavaljitsinh Raijada, 35, from West London’s Ealing, are names responsible for a multi-million-pound drug trafficking operation that transcends continents.

Staggering Money Trail

The National Crime Agency (NCA) discovered the elaborate scheme when the Australian Border Force intercepted over half a tonne of cocaine that was valued at a staggering 57 million pounds. In Indian currency, it is over ₹ 600 crore.
The consignment was intercepted upon its arrival in Sydney in May 2021. The drug-laden cargo, cleverly hidden inside metal toolboxes that were traced back to the seemingly ordinary couple. The duo had established a front company named Viefly Freight Services to facilitate their drugs smuggling network.

A court heard that the couple’s front company had dispatched the narcotics via a commercial flight from the UK. When authorities cracked open the metal toolboxes, they discovered a whopping 514 kilograms of cocaine.

Dhir and Raijada denied the charges put on them of exporting cocaine to Australia and money laundering. However, a jury at Southwark Crown Court convicted them on 12 counts of exportation and 18 counts of money laundering.

The NCA traced the path that led to the convicted couple that included Raijada’s fingerprints on the plastic wrappings of the toolboxes, and receipts found at their residence. These were key evidence linking them to the crime. The agency revealed that the couple had orchestrated 37 consignments to Australia since June 2019 of which 22 were decoys and 15 contained cocaine.

Dhir and Raijada who were previously employed at a Heathrow flight services company, exploited their insider knowledge of airport freight procedures to cover up their illicit activities. The intricate scheme, however, began to come undone when they were arrested at their Hanwell residence on June 21, 2021, leading to the discovery of substantial amounts of cash and gold-plated silver bars.

Investigations in February 2023 exposed the extent of the couple’s hidden wealth. NCA officers uncovered almost 3 million pounds in cash concealed in boxes and suitcases at a storage unit in West London.

Financial inquiries revealed that despite declaring meager profits, the couple had purchased a flat in Ealing for 800,000 pounds (approx. ₹ 8.5 crore) and a Land Rover for 62,000 pounds. Their cash deposits of nearly 740,000 pounds into 22 different bank accounts since 2019 raised suspicions of extensive money laundering.

“Arti Dhir and Kavaljitsinh Raijada used their insider knowledge of the air freight industry to traffic cocaine worth tens of millions of pounds from the UK to Australia, where they knew they could maximise their revenue,” Piers Phillips, NCA Senior Investigating Officer, said as quoted by news agency PTI.

Murder Charges Of Minor Adopted Son

The couple have faced extradition sought by India on charges of murdering their adopted son, Gopal Sejani, in Gujarat. The 11-year-old’s tragic fate unfolded in February 2017, in which the Indian police alleged a sinister plot that involved adoption, insurance, and a staged kidnapping for an insurance payout.

The accuse had traveled to Gujarat in 2015 to adopt Gopal and promised the young boy a better life in London. However, Gopal was abducted, stabbed, and left by a roadside on February 8, 2017. The duo reportedly placed an advertisement in a local newspaper, enticing prospective parents with the promise of bringing an adopted child to live in London. Gopal, who was a young farm boy living with his older sister and her husband became the target of their plan. Indian police alleged that Dhir and Raijada had ulterior motives beyond providing a home for Gopal. India’s extradition request was denied in 2019, followed by an unsuccessful appeal in the High Court in London in 2020.

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