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  • US govt charges Indian in ‘foiled plot to kill Khalistani separatist’: What we know about Nikhil Gupta, the ‘murder conspiracy’ | Explained News

US govt charges Indian in ‘foiled plot to kill Khalistani separatist’: What we know about Nikhil Gupta, the ‘murder conspiracy’ | Explained News

The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) has charged an Indian national for his involvement in a plot to murder a US-based Khalistani leader, an official press release on Wednesday (November 29) stated.

“Today 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, in connection with his participation in a foiled plot to assassinate a US citizen in New York City,” the statement said.

Here is everything we know about the matter so far.

What are the allegations?

According to the DoJ release, “Earlier this year, an Indian government employee, working together with others, including Gupta, in India and elsewhere, directed a plot to assassinate on US soil an attorney and political activist who is a US citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City.”

The name of this government employee has thus far not been disclosed and he is referred to in the DoJ release as “CC-1”. Gupta is allegedly an associate of CC-1, the DoJ said.

Festive offer

“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’,” the DoJ statement said.

CC-1 directed the assassination plot from India. He allegedly recruited Gupta to orchestrate the assassination in the United States, the release claims.

How was the plot foiled?

To carry out the hit job, Gupta “at CC-1’s direction… contacted an individual” whom he “believed to be a criminal associate, but who was in fact a confidential source working with US law enforcement,” the DoJ stated. This source introduced Gupta to a “purported hitman”, who was in fact an “undercover US law enforcement officer”, following which a deal of “$100,000” was brokered to carry out the job, the DoJ said.

After initial payments were made, “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 on to the undercover officer, who he believed was a hit man, the DoJ said.

Gupta asked the ‘hitman’ to carry out the assassination “as soon as possible” but “also specifically instructed” him “not to commit the murder” around the dates of “around the time of anticipated engagements scheduled to occur in the ensuing weeks between high-level US and Indian government officials.”

After the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June outside a gurdwara in British Columbia, Canada, Gupta allegedly told the hitman that Nijjar “was also the target” and “we have so many targets.” CC-1 sent Gupta a news article about the Victim and messaged Gupta, “[i]t’s [a] priority now,” the DoJ alleged.

Who was the target of the plot?

With the exception of Gupta, DoJ mentions no names, referring to the alleged target as the ‘Victim’ throughout the statement.

The statement mentions that the alleged target was a New York-based attorney who is “a vocal critic of the Indian government and leads a US-based organisation that advocates for the secession of Punjab.” It says that the Victim has publicly called for “Punjab to secede from India and establish a Sikh sovereign state” and that “the Indian government has banned the Victim and his separatist organization from India.”

Last week, the Financial Times had reported about an alleged conspiracy to assassinate lawyer and Khalistan supporter Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil, which was “foiled by US authorities with a warning being issued to the Indian government”.

India, in its response, said, “During the course of recent discussions on India-US security cooperation, the US side shared some inputs pertaining to nexus between organised criminals, gun runners, terrorists and others. The inputs are a cause of concern for both countries and they decided to take necessary follow up action. On its part, India takes such inputs seriously since it impinges on our own national security interests as well. Issues in the context of US inputs are already being examined by relevant departments.”

Who is Nick Gupta and where is he now?

Not much is known about Gupta except for the fact that he is an Indian national residing in the US.

As per the DoJ statement, “Czech authorities arrested and detained Gupta on June 30, 2023 pursuant to the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and the Czech Republic.”

He is charged with murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, with each count carrying a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison.

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