Meet the self titled ‘King of Karachi’ – a former kingpin of the UK’s murky criminal underworld.
Gurchettan ‘Chet’ Sandhu – originally from Newcastle – lived a life of luxury and hedonism until his drug smuggling empire came crashing down around him.
It was then he was sent to one of Europe’s most notorious prisons in Spain, where violence and turf wars were rife.
Despite his return to the UK and attempts at a clean slate, Chet went back to his old life and was charged for further crimes.
During a trial which was covered by our sister title in Newcastle, The Chronicle, Chet pleaded guilty to prostitution and blackmail offences and was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison.
Following his release it appears that Chet embarked on the the road to redemption, and ahead of his summer book tour, he filled CoventryLive in on his dark past.
Speaking to us on the phone from his home in Washington, Tyne and Wear, Chet told us of a surprising ambition from his youth; “I wanted to to go to art college, I wanted to be a graphic artist.”
Born in Hitchin, the child of immigrants from Punjab, Chet and his family moved up north to Washington when he was a boy so the family could run their shop.
“I wanted to go to art college but my Dad wanted me as another full time member of the shop, so I did that until I was 21. I was held back, and that’s why I went into that sort of life of crime. The things I was good at I wasn’t allowed to do, I was hindered like that.”
He then moved on to new pastures, “I then got my own clothes shop in Newcastle town centre called Substance, that was high fashion. I was the first person there to sell Vivienne Westwood, I used to go to fashion shows in Milan, Paris. I had it until I was in my mid twenties, but it was a bit ahead of its time for Newcastle.”
It was after this Chet said his life took a turn for the worse, when he started working the doors as a bouncer in some of Newcastle’s well-known nightspots.
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It was through these connections made on the 90s club scene he was introduced to steroids – and the people who could supply them.
“I enjoyed that life, it was a thrill. I didn’t want a normal job after that, this way I was making money and money was the objective. I was making good money. I figured the best way to do [drug deals] was to import them into the country” he said.
This is what took his drugs operation global, as he used circuitous methods to ship steroids from Pakistan through Europe and back to UK streets.
And this was how the ‘King of Karachi’ title came to be. Chet said: “Taxi drivers at Karachi airport used to fight over who would take me around on jobs, so it came from them. Because Karachi is a strict Muslim city, when I used to go [we used to go out drinking and partying] so they would fight over me. They said to me that I was the King of Karachi, because I had the chief of police and narcotics officer paid off.”
And what about his family, immigrants who came from the Punjab to build a life? “My family did know about it, they knew what I was doing and they told me to stop, but I was making money and they left me alone with it. They did tell me not to go to Pakistan because I’m a Sikh boy, the Taliban would kidnap me. But that didn’t put me off, it didn’t deter me and I wanted to take it to the highest level. I went [between the UK and] Pakistan from 1996 to 1999.”
However by 1999, after Interpol had close eyes on him for some time, the game was up and Chet was arrested at Alicante airport as he disembarked a flight from Karachi. He said: “Interpol were tracking me, tracking my flights. I was sentenced to four and a half years but did three in Spain.”
He returned to the UK in 2002, and spent a year on the outside but soon turned back to his old life. “I just got involved again, I should have learnt my lesson.”
He was then sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to prostitution and blackmail offences.
After his release in 2007, Chet said that’s when he decided to leave his past life behind. “That’s me done now, I did my 7 years, and I didn’t want anything more to do with it. Never again, I had put my parents through that too” he said.
“I don’t want to glamourise this, I want people to know that this was what I did, and I’ve started something new. I’m moving on from it.”
Chet now runs a CBD company among another business endeavours, and is due to visit Coventry this weekend as part of his summer book tour.
His book, ‘From king of Karachi in the Costa Del Crime: Meet the international smuggler who dominated Europe’s worst prison.’ is a tell-all of his life behind bars.
And what does the future look like? “I’m single at the moment, I live on my own in Washington. I have an apartment in Cyprus and then I left it and wanted to move back. I’ve got four kids, but I only see the youngest one. I run my CBD company, and am working on my second book, with hopes for a film adaptation.”
Chet said all proceeds of the book go to children with AIDS and HIV in South East Asia.
*You can visit Chet’s book signing on Saturday July 1 at 11:30am, at Coventry CBD shop, 8, Empress Arcade, Binley Rd, Coventry CV3 1JF.