Did India order the murder of a US Sikh separatist?

An indictment from the US Justice Department suggests that an Indian government official attempted to plan the assassination of US citizen Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

The United States Department of Justice has charged an Indian man, Nikhil Gupta, accusing him of collaborating with the Indian government to carry out the planned assassination of a Sikh separatist leader in New York.

On Wednesday, the formal charges linked the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the attempted killing of US citizen Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, following leaked information to newspapers regarding the case.

US officials’ suggestions that India might have been involved in an attempt at an extrajudicial killing on the soil of a friendly nation come six months after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused New Delhi of involvement in the assassination of another Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, near Vancouver.

What does the US indictment say?

The US Justice Department announced murder-for-hire and conspiracy charges against Indian national Nikhil Gupta, 52, believed to be a resident of India.

Federal prosecutors describe Gupta as an associate of an Indian government agency employee identified only as “CC-1”. CC-1, a senior field officer who works with security management and intelligence, previously worked with the Central Reserve Police Force, a leading Indian government paramilitary force.

The indictment alleges that CC-1 directed the murder plan from India and recruited Gupta around May 2023 to coordinate it.

CC-1 directed Gupta to contact a criminal associate to execute the murder. Gupta contacted someone he believed to be a criminal associate. However, unbeknownst to Gupta, the person he hired was a confidential source working for US law enforcement. This source then connected him to a “hitman” who was actually an undercover law enforcement officer working for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Gupta agreed to pay the hitman $100,000 for the job, providing an advance of $15,000 in cash in Manhattan around June 9.

Gupta was arrested and jailed by Czech authorities on June 30 and awaits extradition. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 20 years, with the federal district court determining the sentence.