The Justice Department Wednesday unsealed a murder-for-hire indictment against an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, for his alleged role in a plot to assassinate a Sikh American attorney and political activist.
The Department of Justice alleges in court documents that an unnamed Indian government agent conspired with Gupta and others to assassinate an activist for an independent Khalistan, a homeland for Sikhs in the Punjab.
As AsAmNews previously reported, the alleged plot is especially controversial because it follows only months after the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada. Also an activist for Khalistan’s independence, The Trudeau government alleged they have credible reasons to believe agents acting on behalf of Modi’s government ordered the assassination of the activist for Khalistan independence.
Prosecutors allege that the same schemers in the New York plot also targeted Nijjar and perhaps even ordered his killing. Gupta texted that Nijjar “was also the target” and “we have so many targets” the day after Nijjar’s murder.
The court didn’t identify the intended victim of the New York plot, but Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the General Counsel of Sikhs for Justice (SJF), posted a statement saying he was the target on X. Banned in India, SFJ advocates for the human rights of Sikhs in the Punjab as well as Khalistani independence.
Pannun said that “If death Is the cost for running the Khalistan Referendum, I am willing To pay that price,” referring to his involvement in organizing an unofficial referendum on independence for some or all of Indian Punjab.
Pannun believes he was targeted at the highest levels of the Indian government for his role in the referendum, saying the unsealed court documents indict Prime Minister Narendra Modi as much as they do Nikhil Gupta, all part of India’s “transnational terrorism.”
Allegedly, Gupta described his involvement in international drug and arms trafficking in intercepted communications with a number of people, including the Indian government employee. Likewise, the Indian government agent allegedly described his role as a “Senior Field Officer” responsible for “Security Management” and “Intelligence,” and is accused of directing the plot from India.
At the agent’s prompting, Gupta allegedly tried to recruit someone who he believed was a criminal associate to the plot, but in reality they were a confidential informant for the DEA. The informant introduced Gupta to an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a hitman, who he agreed to pay $100,000 for the killing.
Gupta allegedly delivered a $15,000 pre-payment in June to the undercover agent and gave the green light for the murder, but warned to not kill the target during high-level meetings between US and Indian officials. Once Hardeep Singh Nijjar was murdered in Canada, Gupta told the undercover agent that there was “now no need to wait.”
The DOJ revealed that Gupta, 52 years old, had been arrested in the Czech Republic in late June and extradited to the US for trial, through the bilateral extradition treaty between the two countries.
He faces charges of murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, each with a maximum sentence of 10 years of prison, to be tried by a federal district court judge.
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