US federal prosecutors have brought charges against an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, for his alleged involvement in a murder-for-hire plot targeting a Sikh political activist in New York City.
Who is Nikhil Gupta?
The indictment, unsealed on Wednesday, revealed that Gupta, 52, collaborated with an unidentified Indian official to organize a meeting with an undercover officer, whom he believed to be a hitman, to carry out the assassination. The victim, a US citizen described as an attorney and vocal critic of the Indian government, remains unnamed in the indictment but is identified by US officials familiar with the case as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. Pannun is associated with the organization “Sikhs for Justice,” advocating for a separate Sikh homeland known as Khalistan, which is deemed illegal in India.
In the alleged plot, the Indian official agreed to pay $100,000 to the undercover officer for orchestrating the murder. Gupta, facing charges of murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, was apprehended in June in the Czech Republic. He is currently held under a bilateral extradition treaty between the US and the Czech Republic.
Authorities claim that Gupta collaborated with an Indian government official who identified himself as a “senior field officer” with intelligence responsibilities and purportedly directed the assassination plot from India. Pannun, labeled a terrorist by India and accused of inciting separatism, expressed in a statement that the attempt on his life represents a “threat to freedom of speech and democracy” and suggested that such cases strain US-India relations. This incident follows the murder of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada in June, with the Canadian government linking India to the killing, a claim denied by the Indian government. CNN is seeking a response from the Indian government regarding these allegations.