Nairobi-born British Indian Arti Dhir (59), whose family hail from Gurdaspur in Punjab, and her 35-year-old husband, Kavaljitsinh Raijada, an Indian national from Keshod, Gujarat, who live in Hanwell, were convicted of exporting more 514 kg of cocaine to Australia after a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation found they were behind a front company that had sent the drugs by plane under a cover load of metal toolboxes.
The couple were identified by NCA investigators after Australian Border Force intercepted the cocaine upon its arrival in Sydney in May 2021.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.
Raijada’s fingerprints were found on the plastic wrapping, while receipts for the toolboxes were discovered at the couple’s home. Dhir and Raijada had both been employed at a flight services company at Heathrow and their knowledge of the airport freight procedures was used to cover their criminal activities, After being arrested, NCA investigators discovered millions of pounds of cash and gold-plated silver bars at their home.
Dhir and Raijada denied the charges but were convicted of 12 counts of exportation and 18 counts of money laundering by a jury at Southwark Crown Court. The NCA will now proceedings against them to strip them of their illegally gained assets.
India had in 2019 tried to extradite the couple to face double murder charges in Gujarat.
The couple are accused of plotting, with Nitish Mund, the murder of 12 year-old orphan Gopal Sejani, whom Dhir had adopted in 2015, and his brother-in-law Harsukhbhai Chaganbhai Kardani, in Gujarat, in order to obtain the proceedsfrom a claim on a Rs 1.3 crore insurance policy that Dhir took out for Gopal.
On February 8, 2017 Gopal and Karadani were attacked by two masked assassins in Keshod, Junagadh. They later died in hospital from knife injuries. Dhir and Raijada are alleged to have paid Mund Rs 5 lakh to hire the assassins.
On July 2, 2019, chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot at Westminster Magistrates’ Court turned the extradition request down on the basis they would have no prospect of early release if sentenced to life imprisonment in Gujarat.
That was despite an Indian government assurance in an email 45 minutes before her judgment assuring the court that Dhir and Raijadaan would be eligible to apply for remission.
Two high court judges dismissed the appeal by the Indian government.
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