An Indian official plotted to kill Sikh separatist leader in New York, US prosecutors say

(Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

An Indian official plotted to kill Sikh separatist leader in New York, US prosecutors say


November 29, 2023

An Indian government official plotted $100,000 to kill a prominent Sikh separatist leader in New York City after the man advocated the creation of a sovereign state for Sikhs, U.S. authorities announced Wednesday as they unsealed indictments filed against a man from India who he claims was part of the murder plot.

Last spring, U.S. officials became aware of the plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who is considered a terrorist by the Indian government. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration stopped the plot when the foreign government official recruited an international drug trafficker to commit the killing, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said.

The government official was only described as CC-1 in an indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court that charged Nikhil Gupta, 52, an Indian citizen who had been living in India, with murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire. American Att




Damian Williams and other federal officials


announced the charges in a press release.

“The defendant conspired from India to kill here in New York City an American citizen of Indian descent who has publicly advocated the creation of a sovereign state for Sikhs, an ethnoreligious minority group in India,” he said in the press release.

According to the release, Czech authorities arrested and detained Gupta in the Czech Republic on June 30 under a bilateral extradition treaty between the US and the Czech Republic. It was not immediately clear when he would be brought to the United States.

The plot was orchestrated by an employee of an Indian government agency who has described himself as a senior field officer with security management and intelligence responsibilities and who also claims to have served in India’s Central Police and trained in combat craft and weapons. said. Pannun was only identified in the lawsuits as the “victim.”

The Indian government employee recruited Gupta last May to orchestrate the killing, the indictment said.

The White House declined to comment directly on the charges against Gupta but emphasized that administration officials acted quickly.

When we were informed that the defendant in this case had credibly indicated that he had been instructed to arrange the murder by an individual believed to be an employee of the Government of India, we took this information very seriously taken and we were directly involved in the murder. discussions with the Indian government at the highest levels to express our concerns, White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

The White House first became aware of the plot in late July, according to a senior administration official.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive exchanges with the Indian government, said the White House national security adviser.


Jake Sullivan met with his Indian counterpart, Ravi Sinha, and underlined the need for India to investigate and hold those responsible to account.

Sullivan made that clear too


The US needed assurances that this would not happen again and warned that another episode could permanently damage trust between our two countries, the official said.


Biden then asked CIA Director William Burns to contact his counterpart and travel to India to make clear that the United States would not tolerate such activities and that his administration expected accountability.

Biden also raised the issue directly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi when they met at the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi in September.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Sullivan raised the issue with Secretary of State S. Jaishankar when he visited Washington in September, around the time of the annual UN General Assembly.

In October, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines


to India to share information with Indian government officials in support of their internal investigations.

The indictment stated that Gupta contacted an individual he believed to be a criminal associate to assist in finding a

hit m

an to carry out the murder, but the person happened to be a confidential source working with the D

Carpet Enforcement Administration

. The confidential source then introduced Gupta to an alleged

hit m

an, who was actually a DEA agent, according to the indictment.

In June, the Indian government employee gave Gupta Pannun’s home address, his phone numbers and details of his daily behavior, including surveillance photos, which Gupta then passed on to the undercover DEA agent, the indictment said.

It told Gupta, the undercover agent, to carry out the killing as quickly as possible, but also warned the agent not to carry out the killing around the time of expected fighting between senior U.S. and Indian officials.

India had launched a high-level investigation after US authorities raised concerns with New Delhi that the government may have had knowledge of a plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader on US soil, an Indian official said Wednesday.

The American side

has shared some information and India “takes such inputs seriously as they also affect our national security interests and relevant departments were already looking into the matter,” a statement from Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

In September, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there were credible allegations that the Indian government may have had links to the killing in that country of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. India rejected the accusation as absurd, but Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat and India responded with the same measure.

According to the New York indictment unsealed Wednesday, Gupta told the undercover DEA agent the day after Nijjar’s murder that Nijjar was also targeted and that we have so many targets, adding that in light of the murder of Nijjar now there was no need to wait. carrying out the murder of New York.

Two days after Nijjar was killed, the Indian government official followed up the assassination plot in New York


a news article about the target of the assassination in New York and messaged Gupta that this is the case




priority now, the complaint said.

Canadian Foreign Minister Mlanie Joly declined to comment on the US indictment on Wednesday, but said we stand by our own credible allegations that a murder of a Canadian took place on Canadian soil linked to Indian agents. Joly said she has had countless conversations


with Secretary of State Blinken on the issue, as well as her Indian counterpart.

Pannun was one of the key organizers of the so-called Khalistan referendum, inviting Sikhs around the world to vote on whether the Indian state of Punjab should become an independent nation based on religion. Organizers of the non-binding referendum hope to present the results to the UN General Assembly in about two years. He is also general counsel for the organization Sikhs for Justice


was banned by India in 2019.

Bagchi said the Indian government formed a high-level inquiry committee on November 18 to probe all aspects of the case.


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