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Indian-Origin Couple Jailed For 'Breaking Bad' Style Cocaine Smuggling To Aus

According to the NCA investigators, they both worked for a flight services company at Heathrow.

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South Asians
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Arti Dhir, 59, and Kavaljitsinh Raijada, 35, would probably be named Griselda Blanco and Pablo Escobar of today’s time. The savvy and ambitious druglords from Hanwell in Ealing have been sentenced to 33 years in prison each after being convicted of exporting more than half a tonne of cocaine to Australia at Southwark Crown Court.

The prosecutor, Hugh French, found similarities between the modus operandi of the couple and crime dramas 'Ozark' and 'Breaking Bad'.

"It's like something out of Breaking Bad or Ozark. It was not the 25-year age gap that was different -- it was the fact that they operated in the world of international organised crime."
Hugh French, Prosecutor, was quoted as saying by Sky News
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How The Operation Unfolded

In May 2021, Nairobi-born British-Indian Dhir and Raijada from Gujarat were exposed by the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Australian Border Force, who seized 512 kilos of cocaine worth 57 million pounds upon its arrival via commercial flight from the UK.

According to the investigation officers, the cocaine was placed in six metal toolboxes. The consignments were traced back to Dhir and Raijada, who had set up a company called Viefly Freight Services as a coverup to smuggle drugs. The company has been operational since 2015, and both have been directors of the company at different points.

Raijada’s fingerprints were found on the plastic wrappings of the metal toolboxes. The receipts for the purchase of the toolboxes were found in their home — crucial evidence to link the couple to the crime.

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.

Why would anyone smuggle such a huge amount from the UK to Australia?

As reported in PTI, In the UK, a kilo of cocaine at wholesale is priced at around £26,000 per kilo, but in Australia, the same amount sells for £110,000. Cocaine prices in Australia are higher than in the United Kingdom, making illicit shipment more profitable for Dhir and Raijada.

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Couple Worked at Heathrow Airport

To be able to transport illegal drugs, one needs to have enough knowledge of the flights and its services.

According to the NCA investigators, both of them had worked for a flight services company at Heathrow. Dhir had been employed by a flight services company at Heathrow from March 2003 until October 2016. Raijada worked at the same company from March 2014 to December 2016.

"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, quoted as saying The Free Press Journal

The Arrests

The couple were first arrested from their home in Hanwell on June 21, 2021. The officers seized 5000 pounds worth of gold-plated silver bars, 13,000 pounds from their home, and  60,000 pounds in cash in a safety deposit box.

After further investigation, the couple were arrested again in February 2023. NCA investigating officers found almost 3 million pounds in cash hidden in boxes and suitcases at a storage unit in Hanwell, which Raijada had rented in his mother’s name.

Both of them had deposited almost 7,40,000 pounds in cash into 22 different bank accounts since 2019 and were further charged with money laundering.

"They kept their illicit profits in cash at their home and in storage units, as well as purchasing property, gold and silver in an attempt to hide their wealth,” said Piers Phillips, NCA Senior Investigating Officer, quoted as saying The Free Press Journal.

Allegedly Murdering Their Adopted Son in India

The couple was earlier accused of arranging the murder of their 11-year-old adopted son, Gopal Sejani, for an insurance pay-out in 2017.

The Gujarat police in its investigations claim that the pair had adopted Gopal, before staging his kidnapping and murder in India to split the life insurance payout of Rs 1.3 crore.

India's extradition request for the couple had been turned down by Westminster Magistrates' Court in London in July 2019 on human rights grounds under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Australia    Cocaine   diaspora 

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