Arti Dhir, 59, and Kavaljitsinh Raijada, 35, residents of West London’s Ealing, are facing a 33-year prison sentence each after being found guilty in a drug trafficking case that echoes the complexity of the acclaimed TV series ‘Ozark.’ This Indian-origin couple orchestrated a multi-million-pound drug operation that transcended international borders, drawing parallels to the intricate webs of deceit depicted in the popular crime drama.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) unraveled their elaborate scheme when the Australian Border Force intercepted a colossal shipment of cocaine, weighing over half a tonne and valued at an astounding £57 million, upon its arrival in Sydney in May 2021. The illicit cargo, ingeniously concealed within metal toolboxes, led investigators back to the seemingly ordinary couple who had established a front company named Viefly Freight Services to facilitate their drug smuggling network.
The Cocaine Caper Unveiled
The couple’s front company dispatched the narcotics via a commercial flight from the UK, and upon opening the metal toolboxes, authorities discovered an astonishing 514 kilograms of cocaine. In Australia, where drug prices surpass those in the UK, the street value of this illicit cargo was estimated at £57 million.
Dhir and Raijada vehemently denied charges of exporting cocaine to Australia and engaging in money laundering. Nevertheless, a jury at Southwark Crown Court convicted them on 12 counts of exportation and 18 counts of money laundering.
Unraveling the Web of Deceit
The NCA connected the dots leading to the convicted couple, with Raijada’s fingerprints on the plastic wrappings of the toolboxes and incriminating receipts found at their residence serving as key evidence. The agency revealed that the couple had orchestrated 37 consignments to Australia since June 2019, with 22 acting as decoys and 15 containing cocaine.
Exploiting Insider Knowledge
Both Dhir and Raijada had previous employment at a Heathrow flight services company, utilizing their insider knowledge of airport freight procedures to conceal their illicit activities. However, their intricate scheme began to unravel when the couple was arrested at their Hanwell residence on June 21, 2021, leading to the discovery of substantial amounts of cash and gold-plated silver bars.
Follow the Money Trail
Financial investigations in February last year exposed the extent of the couple’s hidden wealth, with NCA officers discovering almost £3 million in cash concealed in boxes and suitcases at a storage unit in West London. Despite declaring meager profits, the couple had purchased an £800,000 flat in Ealing and a Land Rover for £62,000. Suspicion of extensive money laundering arose as their cash deposits of nearly £740,000 into 22 different bank accounts since 2019 came to light.
Piers Phillips, NCA Senior Investigating Officer, commented, “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 maximize their revenue.”
Murder Allegations and Ongoing Legal Battle
Apart from the drug charges, the couple faced extradition sought by India on charges of murdering their adopted son, Gopal Sejani, in Gujarat. The tragic fate of the 11-year-old unfolded in February 2017, with Indian police alleging a sinister plot involving adoption, insurance, and a staged kidnapping for an insurance payout.
Despite India’s extradition request being denied in 2019 and an unsuccessful appeal in the High Court in London in 2020, the legal battles continue for this notorious couple.