Indian-origin couple jailed for 33 years in UK for exporting over half tonne cocaine to Australia
Arti Dhir, 59, and Kavaljitsinh Raijada, 35, from Hanwell in Ealing are also wanted for the murder of the stepson in Gujarat
An Indian-origin couple in the UK, whose extradition was sought by India on charges of the murder of their adopted son in Gujarat, has been sentenced to 33 years in prison each after being convicted of exporting more than half a tonne of cocaine to Australia.
Arti Dhir, 59, and Kavaljitsinh Raijada, 35, from Hanwell in Ealing were identified by the National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators after Australian Border Force intercepted the cocaine worth 57 million pounds upon its arrival in Sydney in May 2021, the agency said in a statement on Monday.
The couple was behind a front company that had sent the drugs by plane under a cover load of metal toolboxes, according to investigation.
Judge's commendations were awarded to three NCA officers who worked on the case.
Dhir and Raijada denied exporting cocaine to Australia and money laundering. They were convicted of 12 counts of exportation and 18 counts of money laundering by a jury following a trial at Southwark Crown Court on Monday.
They were sentenced at the same court on Tuesday.
The drugs exported by the two had been shipped via a commercial flight from the UK and consisted of six metal toolboxes which, when opened, were found to contain 514 kilograms of cocaine.
The drugs would have been worth up to 57 million pounds when sold in Australia, where prices are significantly higher than in the UK.
In the UK, a kilo of cocaine at wholesale is priced around 26,000 pound but in Australia the same amount sells for 110,000 pounds.
Officers traced the consignment back to Dhir and Raijada, who had set up a front company called Viefly Freight Services with the sole purpose of smuggling drugs. Both defendants had been directors of the company at different points since its incorporation in June 2015.
Raijada's fingerprints were found on the plastic wrappings of the metal toolboxes containing the seized drugs, while receipts for the order of the toolboxes, worth 2855 pounds were discovered at the couple's home. The NCA's case was that there had been 37 consignments sent to Australia since June 2019, of which 22 were dummy runs and 15 contained cocaine.