A married couple has been convicted of drug exportation and money laundering after a National Crime Agency investigation found they were behind a front company that had sent drugs by plane under a cover load of metal toolboxes.

Arti Dhir, 59, and Kavaljitsinh Raijada, 35, from Hanwell, Ealing, were identified by NCA investigators after Australian Border Force intercepted the cocaine, worth £57 million, upon its arrival in Sydney in May 2021.

The former Heathrow workers were thought to have used their knowledge of the airport freight procedures during their work with a flight services company, to cover their criminal activity.

More than half a tonne of cocaine had been shipped to Australia via a commercial flight from the UK and consisted of six metal toolboxes.

Australian Border Force intercepted the cocaine, worth £57 million, upon it’s arrival in Sydney in May 2021.

The drugs would have been worth up to £57 million when sold in Australia, where prices are significantly higher than in the UK.

In the UK, a kilo of cocaine at wholesale is priced around £26,000 per kilo but in Australia the same amount sells for £110,000.

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. Both defendants had been director of the company at different points since its incorporation in June 2015.

Raijada’s fingerprints were found on the plastic wrappings of the metal toolboxes containing the seized drugs, while receipts for the order of the toolboxes, worth £2855, were discovered at the couple’s home.

Piers Phillips, NCA Senior Investigating Officer, said: “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.

“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.

“The NCA worked closely with our partners in Australia and UK Border Force to dismantle the supply chain created by Dhir and Raijada and bring them to justice. We will continue to target class A drugs supply and the criminals overseeing it, both in the UK and overseas.”

Dhir and Raijada denied exporting cocaine to Australia and money laundering. They were convicted of 12 counts of exportation and 18 counts of money laundering.

The NCA will now start Proceeds of Crime proceedings against both defendants to strip them of their assets.