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Indian-origin air hostess sentenced for eight years

india Updated: Dec 21, 2010 19:08 IST

PTI
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An Indian-origin former Air Canada air hostess has been jailed for eight years for trafficking almost USD 400,000 worth of drugs into UK, in what police described as a 'cocaine conspiracy'.

Mandeep Shahi, 27, who teamed up with a former schoolboy to smuggle four kilogrammes worth of cocaine into the country brike down as a Jury at Southwark Crown Court sent her to jail for knowingly being a unwitting drugs mule.

Shahi made the drug run on board and Air Canada flight from Pearson in Canada to Heathrow airport last March.

Judge Gledhill said the Air Hostess took advantage of lack of security checks on Air Canada staff as they flew into Heathrow The report said the 27-year-old Air Hostess took advantage of lax security while working for Air Canada to smuggle four kilos of the drug on board in her luggage on March 26 this year.

Shahi was sentenced for her role in what the police call a "cocaine conspiracy" to import at least four kilogrammes of cocaine.

"Shahi abused her position as a member of cabin crew and is now facing the consequences of her corruption," said Detective Inspector Sarah Staff, of London's Metropolitan Police Service.

The police said Shahi smuggled the cocaine into England in her luggage and then she delivered the drugs to her conspirators in London hotel rooms.

Simon Howard-Harwood, 28, Baljinder Nijjar, 28, and Ghulem Malik, 53, were also convicted of a number of smuggling-related offences.

Shahi is married to Nijjar's cousin, Bhupinder Sanghera. The Daily Mail reported that Shahi wept at the hearing yesterday as the judge said Shahi and her fellow conspirators took advantage of the lack of security checks on Air Canada staff.

"As you well knew through your cousin, and perhaps Ms. Shahi, Canada is not regarded as a country that poses a great risk of prohibited drugs being brought to this country," Judge Michael Gledhill saying to co-accused Nijjar.

Howard-Harwood was jailed for nine years and Nijjar was jailed for 12 years after they both admitted conspiracy to supply prohibited drugs.

He added: "...There is virtually a nil risk that flights coming into this country from Canada would be subjected to random checks of crew."

Shahi claimed she was an unwitting drug courier, set up by her husband and his cousin. Police had been watching Howard-Harwood and Nijjar for months, but only caught Shahi when she made a delivery to the men at a central London hotel on March 26, 2010.

She was not arrested, however, until August, when she returned to London as part of Air Canada's flight crew.

An Air Canada spokeswoman said Shahi was no longer employed by the airline.