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Gujarat Murder, Australian Drug Scandal: Indian Origin Couple Jailed For 33 Years

A British couple, Arti Dhir,59, and Kavaljitsinh Raijada, 35, of Indian descent, were found guilty of a cross-border crime and received sentences of 33 years in prison for each of the two of them. At the core of a multimillion-pound drug trafficking conspiracy across countries are West London residents.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) exposed the intricate plot when the Australian Border Force seized more than 500 kilograms of cocaine, worth a remarkable £57 million (over ₹600 crore), in Sydney in May 2021. Concealed ingeniously within metal toolboxes, the narcotics were linked back to an ostensibly ordinary couple. The duo had set up a front company called Viefly Freight Services to aid their drug smuggling operations.

The couple’s front company sent the drugs from the UK on a commercial flight, the court heard. Five hundred fourteen kilogrammes of cocaine were found when officials broke open the metal toolboxes. In Australia, where drug costs are significantly higher than in the UK, the street value of this unlawful cargo was estimated to be worth 57 million pounds.

Dhir and Raijada fiercely denied the allegations of money laundering and cocaine exportation to Australia. Nonetheless, a jury at Southwark Crown Court found them guilty of 12 counts of exporting and 18 counts of money laundering.

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The NCA made the connections that led to the couple being found guilty. Key evidence connecting them to the crime included Raijada’s fingerprints on the plastic wrappings of the toolboxes and receipts discovered at their home. According to the agency, since June 2019, the couple has planned 37 consignments to Australia, of which 15 contained cocaine and 22 served as agents.

Before their unlawful activities, Dhir and Raijada worked for a Heathrow airline company, where they gained intimate knowledge of airport freight procedures. But when the couple was apprehended at their Hanwell home on June 21, 2021, the elaborate plan started to fall apart, and large sums of cash and gold-plated silver bars were found.

In February of last year, investigations revealed the size of the couple’s undisclosed fortune. Officers from the NCA found nearly three million pounds in cash hidden in boxes and luggage at a West London storage facility.

Financial investigations showed that the couple had bought a Land Rover for 62,000 pounds and an apartment in Ealing for 800,000 pounds (about 8.5 crore) despite reporting pathetic profits. Since 2019, their almost 740,000 pounds in cash deposits into 22 separate bank accounts have sparked concerns about possible massive 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, according to reports.

The couple was facing extradition requests from India due to allegations that they killed Gopal Sejani, their adoptive son, in Gujarat. The 11-year-old met a horrible end in February 2017, and Indian police have said there was a sinister conspiracy involving adoption, insurance, and a fictitious kidnapping to receive a settlement from insurance.

The couple went to Gujarat in 2015 to adopt Gopal and assured the little child that London would provide a better life. However, on February 8, 2017, Gopal was kidnapped, stabbed, and abandoned by a roadside.

The couple allegedly advertised in a neighbourhood newspaper, attracting potential adoptive parents with the idea of bringing their adopted child to live in London. Their scheme was directed at Gopal, a rural child who lived with his older sister and her husband. Indian authorities claimed Dhir and Raijada’s intentions went beyond giving Gopal a place to live. India’s request for extradition was turned down in 2019, and its appeal to the London High Court in 2020 was unsuccessful.

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