viewComments US files charge against Indian national for conspiracy to kill Sikh Separatist

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US files “murder-for-hire” charge against Indian national for conspiracy to kill Sikh Separatist

The indictment claims that Pannun's attempt at assassination was given "priority" after the June 18, 2023, assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada.

The United States has charged a 52-year-old Indian national in connection to his involvement in a failed assassination attempt on U.S. citizen and Sikhs for Justice leader, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. 

According to the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, the accused, Nikhil Gupta, was working with an Indian government employee, who was directing the assassination plot from India. On June 30, 2023, Czech authorities detained and arrested Gupta.

Who was involved?
 

The US authorities, in their superseding indictment unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claim that Gupta, an Indian national who resides in India, was recruited by the Indian government employee, referred to as CC-1, to carry out the assassination in or around May 2023.

“CC-1 is an Indian government agency employee who has variously described himself as a “Senior Field Officer” with responsibilities in “Security Management” and “Intelligence,” and who also has referenced previously serving in India’s Central Reserve Police Force and receiving “officer[] training” in “battle craft” and “weapons”, the official statement from the Attorney’s Office reads.

Thwarting by US Agencies 

According to the indictment, Gupta, operating under CC-1’s direction, contacted a criminal associate (CS) for assistance in hiring a hitman to assassinate Pannun. However, CS, who was a source working with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) put Gupta in touch with a purported hitman, who was in fact a DEA undercover officer (the “UC”).

The Indian agencies allegedly agreed to pay UC $100,000 to murder Pannun. In June 2023, their associate delivered an advance of $15,000 in cash to the UC in Manhattan. Through Gupta, CC-1 informed UC of Pannun's daily activities and whereabouts.

“GUPTA directed the UC to carry out the murder as soon as possible, but GUPTA also specifically instructed the UC not to commit the murder around the time of anticipated engagements scheduled to occur in the ensuing weeks between high-level U.S. and Indian government officials,” the statement reads.

Connection to Canada’s allegations 

Following Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s assassination on June 18, 2023, in Canada, the indictment states that Pannun’s assassination attempt was made a “priority.”

“On or about June 19, 2023, the day after the Nijjar murder, GUPTA told the UC that Nijjar “was also the target” and “we have so many targets.”  GUPTA added that, in light of Nijjar’s murder, there was “now no need to wait” on killing the Victim.”

The case is being handled by the Attorney Office’s National Security and International Narcotics Unit, Violent and Organized Crime Unit, and Narcotics Unit. If convicted, Gupta faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison For murder-to-hire, and another maximum sentence of 10 years for conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire.

“Murder for hire is a crime out of a movie, but the plot in this case was all too real.  The excellent teamwork of the law enforcement partners in this case exposed this brazen conspiracy and is why Nikhil Gupta finds himself in jail waiting to answer to these charges,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith said.
 

 

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