Who Is Nikhil Gupta, Man Charged In Failed Plot To Kill Khalistan Terrorist

Gupta is accused of trying to hire a hitman but the hitman turned out to be an undercover US federal agent.

Who Is Nikhil Gupta, Man Charged In Failed Plot To Kill Khalistan Terrorist

The US has welcomed India's efforts to probe the matter.

New Delhi:

Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national, has been charged by United States federal prosecutors with conspiring with an Indian government official to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Khalistani terrorist who holds American and Canadian citizenship, on American soil.

Gupta is accused of trying to hire a hitman but the hitman turned out to be an undercover US federal agent. Gupta, 52, is currently detained in the Czech Republic while awaiting extradition to the US. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The Plot

A high-ranking Indian official, whose identity has not been revealed, stands accused of allegedly orchestrating the assassination plot targeting Pannun in New York City. The Financial Times, without naming sources, last week reported that US authorities had busted the assassination plot against Pannun.

In an indictment, US federal prosecutors have addressed the Indian official as "CC-1" and claimed he masterminded the plot from India to eliminate "an attorney and political activist who is a US citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City".

"Beginning in or about early May 2023, in a series of telephonic and electronic communications between CC-1 and Gupta over encrypted applications, CC-1 asked Gupta to arrange the murder of the Victim in exchange for CC-1's assistance in securing the dismissal of a criminal case against Gupta in India. Gupta agreed to orchestrate the assassination. In addition to their electronic communications, Gupta also met CC-1 in person in New Delhi in furtherance of the plot," the US Department of Justice indictment claims.

On May 6, 2023, as their conversation on an encrypted messaging app began, the Indian government employee allegedly sent a message to Gupta stating, "This is (CC-1)... Save my name as (CC-1 Alias)." Gupta saved CC-1's phone number under an alias. Shortly afterward, CC-1 sent another message to Gupta, informing him that they had a "target in New York" and another in "California," according to the indictment.

Acting on CC-1's instructions, Gupta allegedly sought the assistance of an individual he believed to be a criminal associate, who was, in reality, a confidential informant working with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), to engage a hitman for Pannun's murder in New York City.

Subsequently, CC-1 reached an agreement with the undercover officer, allegedly brokered by Gupta, to pay $100,000 in exchange for the assassination. Gupta, described as an "international narcotics trafficker" by the US, was detained in the Czech Republic in June 2023 on a request from the US.

Response

India called the US allegation of a government official directing a murder plot on American soil as a "matter of concern", and announced that a high-level probe committee would thoroughly investigate the matter.

"As regards the case against an individual that has been filed in a US court, allegedly linking him to an Indian official, this is a matter of concern," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a media briefing on Thursday. "We have said and let me reiterate that this is also contrary to government policy."

The US has welcomed India's efforts to probe the matter.

"The (Indian) government announced today that it was conducting an investigation, and that's good and appropriate, and we look forward to seeing the results," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday. "So you'll understand I can't comment on it in detail. I can say that this is something we take very seriously. A number of us have raised this directly with the Indian Government in past weeks."

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