British woman, 55, ‘should face justice over plot to murder her adopted son’

A British woman battling extradition to India should ‘face justice’ over an alleged plot to murder her adopted son, his family said yesterday.

Former Heathrow baggage handler Arti Dhir, 55, is accused of arranging the killing of 11-year-old Gopal Sejani to claim up to £150,000 through a life insurance policy.

Together with her husband Kaval Raijada, 30, she is said to have agreed to adopt him before hiring hitmen to attack the orphaned farm-boy.

Former Heathrow baggage handler Arti Dhir, 55, pictured above, is accused of arranging the killing of 11-year-old Gopal Sejani to claim up to £150,000 through a life insurance policy

The adoption process and a passport application for Gopal was almost complete but he was killed before he had a chance to visit his new home.

Court documents allege that Kenyan-born Dhir, who arrived in the UK as a child, paid two insurance premiums totalling £30,000 into a ‘wealth builder’ policy before he died in 2017.

Gopal had been promised a better life in England but never left India after being stabbed to death by two men on motorbikes. 

His brother-in-law, Harsukhbhai Kardani, who was married to Gopal’s elder sister, Alpa, was also fatally knifed trying to defend the boy.

The adoption process and a passport application for Gopal, above, was almost complete but he was killed before he had a chance to visit his new home

The adoption process and a passport application for Gopal, above, was almost complete but he was killed before he had a chance to visit his new home

In a village near Malia, in the Gujarat region of India, Mrs Kardani yesterday told how she brought Gopal up as her own son after their father died and their mother abandoned them. 

The 35-year-old said the family was approached by a middle-man on behalf of Dhir who offered to take Gopal out of poverty.

Through a translator, she explained: ‘He asked us if we want [to listen to] an adoption proposal. We were hesitant and were not willing… He told us that Arti Dhir from London wants to adopt a boy and for that they had placed advertisements in the newspapers but couldn’t get any one.

In a village near Malia, in the Gujarat region of India, Mrs Kardani yesterday told how she brought Gopal up as her own son after their father died and their mother abandoned them

In a village near Malia, in the Gujarat region of India, Mrs Kardani yesterday told how she brought Gopal up as her own son after their father died and their mother abandoned them

‘He said that since you people are poor, it is better that Gopal goes. If your boy [Gopal] moves to the UK, it would be nice for you and him.

‘We didn’t expect any money or monetary benefits from them. All we expected was that Gopal gets a good life. We are poor and do labour work to survive daily ordeals.’

In February 2017, Gopal and Mr Kardani had been to sign some of the paperwork when they were ambushed.

A motorbike carrying two men pulled up alongside the car, where one said: ‘Let us kidnap the boy and we may find something of value,’ according to court documents. 

Gopal was dragged from the car before being stabbed in the stomach. Mr Kardani was killed trying to save him.

Dhir and Raijada, of Hanwell, west London, are currently fighting extradition requests from India to face trial in the country.

They each face six charges including conspiracy to murder and kidnapping. The pair deny the allegations and have not been charged in the UK.

In July, they won their latest attempt to remain in Britain after a judge ruled that, if convicted of two murders in India, the couple would face life sentences without the prospect of parole – breaching their human rights.

Gopal, pictured right, was dragged from the car before being stabbed in the stomach. Mr Kardani, left, was killed trying to save him

Gopal, pictured right, was dragged from the car before being stabbed in the stomach. Mr Kardani, left, was killed trying to save him

Sitting at Westminster magistrates’ court, senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot found that Gopal was ‘unaccountably’ targeted by the murderers.

But, in rejecting India’s extradition request, Mrs Arbuthnot said the possible sentence faced by the suspect would be ‘inhuman and degrading’.

Reacting to the decision, Mrs Kardani said: ‘The UK Government must send them back to Gujarat, India. We have lost two lives. How do we go on in life? They must be brought to justice… I took care of Gopal since he was in cradle and he was two years old. Gopal was just like my own son. The Gujarat police have done a good job… The UK Government should look at poor people like us and I hope [they] understand what we are going through.’

Court documents allege that Kenyan-born Dhir, who arrived in the UK as a child, paid two insurance premiums totalling £30,000 into a ‘wealth builder’ policy before he died in 2017. She is pictured leaving a west London gym with her face covered

Court documents allege that Kenyan-born Dhir, who arrived in the UK as a child, paid two insurance premiums totalling £30,000 into a ‘wealth builder’ policy before he died in 2017. She is pictured leaving a west London gym with her face covered

Yesterday Dhir and Raijada made every effort to maintain a low profile as they emerged separately from their flat with their faces covered by scarves.

The couple were first arrested in London in June 2017 shortly after Dhir was named by Interpol as one of Britain’s ‘most wanted’.

A first extradition hearing took place in January, with further hearings in June and July.

The Indian government has appealed the decision not to grant extradition and a further hearing is set for January.

Supt Saurab Singh of Junagadh Police in Gujarat said: ‘Dhir and Raijada are accused of a criminal conspiracy to kidnap a young boy of 11 years.’

He said the allegation was they had ‘taken an insurance policy in his name, kidnapped him and got him murdered’. 

Four men have been arrested in India for their alleged involvement.