The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday announced charges against an Indian national in connection with his participation in a foiled plot to assassinate a U.S. citizen in New York City.

In the Southern District of New York, a superseding indictment was unsealed alleging murder-for-hire charges against Indian national Nikhil Gupta, aka Nick, 52.

“Czech authorities arrested and detained Gupta on June 30, 2023 pursuant to the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and the Czech Republic,” the Department of Justice announced.

“According to court documents, earlier this year, an Indian government employee (CC-1), working together with others, including Gupta, in India and elsewhere, directed a plot to assassinate on U.S. soil an attorney and political activist who is a U.S. citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City (the Victim),” the DOJ stated.

The scheme allegedly involved a $100,000 payment to the assassin “to kill a prominent Sikh separatist leader living in New York City after the man advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs,” the Associated Press reports.

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From the DOJ:

Gupta is an Indian national who resides in India, is an associate of CC-1 and has described his involvement in international narcotics and weapons trafficking in his communications with CC-1 and others. 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.” CC-1 directed the assassination plot from India.

In or about May 2023, CC-1 recruited Gupta to orchestrate the assassination of the Victim in the United States. The Victim is a vocal critic of the Indian government and leads a U.S.-based organization that advocates for the secession of Punjab, a state in northern India that is home to a large population of Sikhs, an ethnoreligious minority group in India. The Victim has publicly called for some or all of Punjab to secede from India and establish a Sikh sovereign state called Khalistan, and the Indian government has banned the Victim and his separatist organization from India.

At CC-1’s direction, Gupta contacted an individual whom Gupta believed to be a criminal associate, but who was in fact a confidential source working with U.S. law enforcement (the CS), for assistance in contracting a hitman to murder the Victim in New York City. The CS introduced Gupta to a purported hitman, who was in fact an undercover U.S. law enforcement officer (the UC). CC-1 subsequently agreed in dealings brokered by Gupta to pay the UC $100,000 to murder the Victim. On or about June 9, CC-1 and Gupta arranged for an associate to deliver $15,000 in cash to the UC as an advance payment for the murder. CC-1’s associate then delivered the $15,000 to the UC in Manhattan.

In or about June 2023, in furtherance of the assassination plot, CC-1 provided Gupta 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, which Gupta then passed to the UC. CC-1 directed Gupta to provide regular updates on the progress of the assassination plot, which Gupta accomplished by forwarding to CC-1, among other things, surveillance photographs of the Victim. 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 Associated Press reports:

India had set up a high-level inquiry after U.S. authorities raised concerns with New Delhi that its government may have had knowledge of a plot to kill a Sikh separatist leader on American soil.

U.S. officials became aware of the plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who is considered a terrorist by the Indian government.

Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in the release that the DEA stopped the plot when a foreign government employee recruited an international narcotics trafficker to commit murder in the U.S.

According to the indictment, the plot was directed by an Indian government agency employee who has described himself as a “senior field officer” with responsibilities in “security management” and “intelligence” and also claims to have served in India’s Central Reserve Police Force and been trained in “battle craft” and “weapons.” The government employee was identified in the indictment only as “CC-1.” Pannun was only identified in court papers as the “Victim.”

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