Indian national agreed to assassination plot after assurances criminal case against him in Gujarat will be dismissed: US federal prosecutors
New York: An Indian national, charged in connection with a plan to assassinate a Sikh separatist on American soil, agreed to the plot after being assured that a criminal case against him in Gujarat would be dismissed, federal prosecutors here have alleged.
Nikhil Gupta, 52, has been charged with murder-for-hire in connection with his participation in a foiled plot to assassinate a US citizen in New York City, according to a superseding indictment unsealed Wednesday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
While the indictment does not name the US citizen who was the target of the assassination plot, The Financial Times, citing unnamed sources, last week reported that US authorities thwarted a plot to assassinate banned Sikhs for Justice’s Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, and issued a warning to the Indian government over concerns it was involved in the plot.
In the indictment, prosecutors outline how Gupta agreed to the plot after being assured that a criminal case against him in Gujarat would be dismissed.
“Beginning in or about early May 2023, in a series of telephonic and electronic communications between CC-1 and Gupta over encrypted applications, CC-1 asked Gupta to arrange the murder of the Victim in exchange for CC-1’s assistance in securing the dismissal of a criminal case against Gupta in India. Gupta agreed to orchestrate the assassination. In addition to their electronic communications, Gupta also met CC-1 in person in New Delhi in furtherance of the plot,” the indictment said.
Prosecutors have said that CC-1 is an “Indian government employee” who directed the plot from India to assassinate on US soil “an attorney and political activist who is a US citizen of Indian-origin residing in New York City,” described as “the victim” in the indictment.
“On or about May 6, 2023, at the outset of their conversation over a particular encrypted messaging application, CC-1 wrote Gupta: “This is (CC-1)… Save my name as (CC- 1 Alias).”
Gupta saved the telephone number on Gupta’s phone under an alias for CC-1. A few minutes later, CC-1 messaged Gupta that CC-1 had a “target in New York” and another target in “California”, the indictment said.
The indictment added that around “May 12, 2023, CC-1 notified Gupta that his criminal case “has already been taken care of,” and that “nobody from Gujrat police is calling.”
On or about May 23, 2023, CC-1 again assured Gupta that CC-1 had “spoke[n] with the boss about your Gujarat (case),” that it was “all clear,” and “nobody will ever bother you again.”
CC-1 further offered to arrange a meeting between Gupta and a “DCP,” which is an acronym used in India for Deputy Commissioner of Police.”
“Following CC-1 ‘s assurances, GUPTA pressed forward to arrange the murder,” the indictment said.
The murder-for-hire charge against Gupta carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The indictment said that at CC-1’s direction, Gupta contacted an individual whom he believed to be a criminal associate, but who was in fact a confidential source working with the DEA for assistance in contracting a hitman to murder the Victim in New York City.
The confidential source introduced Gupta to a purported hitman, who was in fact a DEA undercover officer.
CC-1 subsequently agreed in dealings brokered by Gupta to pay the undercover officer USD 100,000 to murder the Victim. Around June 9, 2023, CC-1 and Gupta arranged for an associate to deliver USD 15,000 in cash to the undercover officer as an advance payment for the murder. CC-1’s associate then delivered the $15,000 to the undercover officer in Manhattan.
Gupta, described as an “international narcotics trafficker” was arrested in the Czech Republic at the request of the United States in June 2023 in connection with his participation in the plot.