Advertisement

'Like something out of Breaking Bad': Couple jailed for 33 years over cocaine smuggling plot

A married couple have been sentenced to 33 years in prison each after they were found guilty of an international drug smuggling plot worth millions.

Arti Dhir, 59, and Kavaljitsinh Raijada, 35, were convicted of exporting more than half a tonne of cocaine worth £57m from the UK to Australia in the operation, which prosecutors likened to the plots of American TV crime dramas Ozark and Breaking Bad.

Australian patrols intercepted the drugs when they arrived in Sydney in May 2021. They were shipped on a commercial flight and concealed in metal toolboxes.

Southwark Crown Court heard it was one of 15 similar shipments between June 2019 and May 2021, while nearly £3m in cash was also found in a west London storage lock-up linked to the pair.

Drug prices are significantly higher in Australia, where a kilogram of cocaine can sell for £110,000 compared with £26,000 in the UK.

Dhir and Raijada denied involvement but were found guilty of 12 counts of drug smuggling and 18 charges relating to money laundering by a jury.

Officers had traced the consignment back to the pair, and Raijada's fingerprints were detected on the plastic wrap of the toolboxes for which receipts were found at the couple's home.

Both were arrested at their Ealing home in west London in June 2021 where officers seized £5,000 worth of gold-plated silver bars, £13,000 inside the home and found £60,000 in cash in a safety deposit box.

Both defendants were also found to be holding substantial amounts of cash in bank accounts that far exceeded their declared income.

They had deposited almost £740,000 in cash into 22 different bank accounts since 2019 and were further charged with money laundering.

Prosecutor Hugh French had told the court: "It's like something out of Breaking Bad or Ozark," and described the "ruthless and greedy" pair as "very different from the average married couple".

"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," he added.

Read more:
Man shot dead by police was carrying crossbows, knife, sword and hatchet
Boy, 15, charged with attempted murder

'Murder plot'

Dhir and Raijada are also wanted in India over an alleged plot to kill their adopted son for an insurance payout.

They allegedly arranged to adopt 11-year-old Gopal Sejani, who lived with his family in the same village as Raijada's father, before taking out a life insurance policy.

Gopal was snatched by two men on a motorbike and later found with stab wounds to the stomach. He died in hospital on 11 February 2017.

His brother-in-law Harsukhbhai Kardani also died after being stabbed in the stomach during the attack.

Dhir and Raijada were arrested in the UK later that year but successfully avoided extradition to face charges of conspiracy to commit murder, murder, attempting to commit murder, kidnapping and abduction for the purpose of committing murder and abetting a crime.

The duo denied the allegations, which have never been tested in court, but a judge in the extradition case found there was a "prima facie case" against them.

However, she said they should not be sent to India because if they were found guilty "they would be imprisoned for life with no prospect of release", which would breach their human rights, according to a 2020 High Court judgment upholding the decision.