Home News Feds Charge Nikhil Gupta in Alleged NYC Assassination Plot

Feds Charge Nikhil Gupta in Alleged NYC Assassination Plot


Photo: Eduardo Munoz-Pool/Getty Images

Federal authorities announced on Wednesday that they’d filed charges in connection to a foiled assassination plot against a U.S. citizen on American soil.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has charged Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national, with conspiring to hire a hit man to assassinate a member of the Sikh separatist movement in New York City. Though officials did not name Gupta’s intended target, the Financial Times has reported that Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, general counsel for the New York–based group Sikhs for Justice, was the subject of the plot. Through his work, Pannun, who is a dual U.S. and Canadian citizen, advocates for the creation of a sovereign Sikh state in the Punjab region of India.

Prosecutors allege that Gupta was recruited by a member of the Indian government in May 2023 to plan Pannun’s assassination in exchange for their help in getting a criminal case against Gupta dismissed. According to the indictment, Gupta reached out to an individual, who, unbeknown to him, was a confidential source with the Drug Enforcement Administration, for help finding a hit man to carry out the job. The source connected Gupta with an alleged hit man, an undercover DEA officer, and Gupta negotiated an agreement with the government employee to pay $100,000 to have Pannun killed. Gupta and the employee arranged the delivery of a $15,000 advance payment to the DEA source.

Gupta is also said to have provided the source with “personal information about the Victim, including the Victim’s home address in New York City, phone numbers associated with the Victim, and details about the Victim’s day-to-day conduct,” as well as with surveillance photos of Pannun. Gupta reportedly requested that the murder occur quickly, but advised the source to avoid committing it around the time of planned meetings between high-level U.S. and Indian government officials.

Per the indictment, Gupta told the undercover officials that his colleagues would provide them with future targets after this plot was completed, and referred separately to a “big target” in Canada. Not long after, on June 18, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist, was killed by masked gunmen outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia, an incident that caused an international rupture between Canada and India. Gupta reportedly received a video of Nijjar’s bloodied body from the government official he was working with and sent it to the undercover individuals, saying Nijjar was the target he previously alluded to. He then urged them to proceed with the plot, saying in a call, “We got the go-ahead to go anytime, even today, tomorrow — as early as possible.”

“We will not tolerate efforts to assassinate U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, and stand ready to investigate, thwart, and prosecute anyone who seeks to harm and silence Americans here or abroad,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

Gupta was first detained by authorities in the Czech Republic on June 30 after traveling there from India and is awaiting extradition. He’s facing charges of murder for hire and conspiracy to commit murder for hire, which each carry a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

The charges come months after Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said there were “credible allegations” that the Indian government, which has become increasingly nationalist and assertive under Prime Minister Narendra Modi in recent years, was involved in the murder of Nijjar, a Canadian citizen. Trudeau reportedly briefed Canada’s closest allies about the incident, including President Joe Biden. The relationship between Canada and India remains frosty.

The Washington Post reports that CIA director William J. Burns and director of National Intelligence Avril Haines traveled to India several months ago as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to stress that the Indian government investigate the plot and hold those responsible for its planning accountable.

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