A married couple exported more than half-a-tonne of cocaine to Australia disguised as metal toolboxes and then laundered their ill-gotten gains.
Arti Dhir, 59, and Kavaljitsinh Raijada, 35, from Hanwell, west London, were unmasked after Australian border force seized the cocaine, worth £57m, when it arrived in Sydney in May 2021.
The pair had shipped the cocaine inside six metal tool boxes on a commercial flight from the UK, which contained a whopping 514 kilos of the Class A drug.
Dhir and Raijada were convicted of 12 counts of exportation and 18 counts of money laundering at Southwark Crown Court on Monday and were each sentenced to 33 years in prison on Tuesday.
The court heard how the consignment was tracked to a front company called Viefly Freight Services, which both defendants were involved in.
Raijada’s fingerprints were found on the plastic wrappings of the seized drugs, while receipts for the order of the toolboxes were discovered at the couple’s home.
Prosecutors said both Raijada and Dhir, who previously worked at a flight services company at Heathrow, had used their knowledge of airport freight to try and cover their tracks.
They believe there had been 37 consignments sent to Australia since June 2019, of which 22 were dummy runs and 15 contained cocaine.
Police arrested the pair at their Hanwell home on June 21, 2021 and seized £5,000 in gold-plated silver bars, £13,000 of cash inside the home, and a further £60,000 cash in a safety deposit box.
National Crime Agency (NCA) officers later discovered almost £3 million in cash hidden in boxes and suitcases at a storage unit in Hanwell, which Raijada had rented in his mother’s name.
The drug-dealing duo bought a flat in Ealing for £800,000 and a Land Rover for £62,000, despite declaring profits of only a few thousand pounds to HMRC - prompting charges of money laundering.
The NCA said it would now start legal proceedings to strip the pair of their assets.
Piers Phillips, NCA Senior Investigating Officer, said: “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.
“These defendants may have thought they were removed from the misery caused by the drugs trade but their greed was fuelling it.”