‘Escobars of Ealing’ hid spoils of £700,000,000 cocaine deals in dingy flat

Arti Dhir and her husband Kaval Raijada have been jailed for 33 years each for smuggling huge amounts of cocaine to Australia (Picture: National Crime Agency)

A couple dubbed the ‘Escobars of Ealing’ stashed profits from their £700,000,000 cocaine smuggling at their dingy flat.

Arti Dhir, 59, and her husband Kaval Raijada, 34, sent up to seven tonnes of the class A drug to Australia.

The pair set up an air cargo company and created false paperwork to dupe British and Australian authorities into thinking the cargo was legitimate.

They even started a ‘Breaking Bad’-style carwash to launder their money.

Dhir and Raijada were arrested following a National Crime Agency investigation, in which large amounts of cash and seven gold-plated bullion were found in their one-bedroom flat in Ealing, west London.

Photos show a run-down apartment with dirty walls and a stash of £50 and $20 notes in a drawer.

This week they were sentenced to 33 years in prison each at Southwark Crown Court.

The dingy flat where money and gold bullions were stashed (Picture: National Crime Agency)

It comes after police in India suspected the couple of arranging to have their recently adopted son, 11-year old Gopal Sejani, killed in February 2017 for a £150,000 insurance pay-out.

Gopal was abducted by two men on motorbikes, stabbed and left by a road in Gujarat.

His brother-in-law, Harsukh Kardani, who tried to protect Gopal, was also attacked. Both died of their injuries in hospital.

Dhir and Raijada were arrested in the UK in June that year on charges including conspiracy to murder and kidnapping after a request from the Indian government.

But a judge turned down an extradition request in 2019, due to human rights concerns.

An appeal against the decision in 2020 was not successful and they were allowed to walk free.

£50 notes found in a drawer in the couple’s flat (Picture: National Crime Agency)

It was on May 15 2021, that Australian authorities searched six metal crates, two days after Raijada had them delivered to Heathrow Airport.

Inside was 568kg of cocaine in 514 blocks, with an estimated street value in Australia of £57,000,000.

A gram of cocaine in Australia can fetch almost double the street value of the drug in the UK.

It was estimated that they exported between six and seven tons to Australia to the value of between £5,000,000, and £7,000,000 between 2019 and 2021.

Cash totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds was deposited in multiple bank accounts and £522,900 was used to buy a house in west London.

Dhir and Raijada were suspected of arranging the murder of their adopted son Gopal Sejani

The couple at an extradition hearing in London following Gopal’s death (Picture: Rob Todd)

Officers also found £3,000,000 in cash and silver bars in a safety deposit box.

Dhir and Raijada, of Rosebank Road, Hanwell, both denied 33 charges relating to drug smuggling and transfer of criminal property, between June 24 2019 and May 15 2021.

They were convicted of 12 charges of cocaine exportation and 18 of money laundering after a 10 week trial.

Before starting their drugs business, Dhir had spent several years working with a flight services company at Heathrow Airport, dealing with paperwork and documentation of goods, while Raijada was employed as a baggage handler.

Judge Edward Connell told them: ‘For many years you both worked in the airline and freight business.

A neighbour of Dhir said she seemed like a ‘nice and normal person’ (Picture: Gujarat Police)

‘I am satisfied that this work enables you to see what the weaknesses in the system were and how to exploit them for your own financial gain.

‘I am quite satisfied that you were both the masterminds behind this criminal enterprise.

‘You both played a central role in the company and you sought to blame others who worked at the company even though the evidence suggests that it was run by the two of you and the two of you alone.’

He continued: ‘I have no doubt that you were motivated by greed. You both were doing jobs with modest incomes and you simply wanted more. You gave up legitimate, lawful work to engage in this criminal enterprise.’

Prosecutor Hugh French had told the court Dhir and Raijada were ‘very different from the average married couple’.

Raijada is believed to have met his future wife when he cared for her elderly father(Picture: Gujarat Police)

He added: ‘It was not the 25 year age gap that makes them different – it was the fact that they were operating in the world of international organised crime.

‘The Crown’s case is that together they played a pivotal role in an operation which smuggled millions of pounds worth of cocaine out of the UK and into Australia.

‘The evidence suggests they had been smuggling cocaine from England to Australia in commercial flights, in commercial cargo, and they had been doing that for a couple of years before the authorities realised what they were doing.’

Referring to the money laundering business, Mr French said: ‘The carwash, just like in Breaking Bad, is a front to launder money.

‘This is pretty textbook money laundering.’

The couple smuggled £700,000,000 worth of cocaine to Australia (Picture: National Crime Agency)

Neighbours of the pair said they had no idea what Dhir and Raijada were up to.

One, cleaner Rose O’Sullivan, recalls making small talk with Dhir two years ago. 

The 52-year-old told The Sun: ‘I was doing the gardening when she leaned out of her window at the back to say hello. She seemed like a nice and normal person.

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‘I remember asking how she was and she said she was good. We talked about how nice the weather was and simple things like.’

The couple reportedly met around 2010, when Raijada moved from India to the UK to study but ended up caring for Dhir’s elderly father. They married in 2013.

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