According to the Justice Department, India hired DEA agents to assassinate terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on US soil.
The Justice Department declared on Wednesday that it had brought charges against a man who was purportedly involved in the planning of an American citizen’s assassination earlier this year while working for the Indian government. Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national, is accused of receiving orders from an Indian government official to arrange the assassination of a Sikh separatist who lived in New York.
According to the indictment, Gupta hired a hitman and gave him a $15,000 advance to carry out the murder this past summer after being approached by an Indian government official. In reality, the hitman worked as a Drug Enforcement Administration undercover agent. The intended victim of the murder was Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, general counsel for the Sikh activist organization Sikhs for Justice, located in New York, according to a Washington Post article about the indictment. Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen stated in the DEA press statement that detectives had “foiled and exposed a dangerous plot to assassinate a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.”
Around the same time that Pannun was the target of an alleged assassination plan, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and prominent figure in the Sikh separatist movement, was killed. In June, Nijjar was killed outside of Vancouver, and the Canadian government has claimed that Indian intelligence played a role in his demise.
Regarding a purported transnational assassination program that targets its opponents abroad, the Indian government has come under fire. Apart from the Nijjar murder, The Intercept has also covered purported FBI warnings to American Sikhs and purported Indian schemes to kill Sikh activists in Pakistan. The Gupta scheme and the Nijjar murder occurred before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. in June.
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Pritpal Singh, a coordinator for the American Sikh Caucus Committee and one of the Sikh American activists contacted by the FBI following Nijjar’s killing, said, “India showed a clear disregard for the rule of law when its government orchestrated the killing of an American activist on U.S. soil, coinciding with Modi’s White House visit.”
According to the article published in FT, the US foiled India’s terrorist assassination plot on Sikh rebel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil.
The indictment’s details point to an attempted murder for hire gone wrong. Gupta, 52, was said to have collaborated with an Indian government officer with a history in security and intelligence and was linked to the global arms and drug trade. Gupta, along with others living in India and abroad, was involved in the planning of Pannun’s assassination due to his support of a Sikh state operating independently of the Indian government and his criticism of it. During a meeting in New Delhi to discuss the plot, the government official hinted that he would assist in getting criminal charges against Gupta in India dropped in exchange. Details on Pannun, including his address, related phone numbers, and his daily schedule, were given to Gupta by the Indian government official. Gupta then passed this information to the DEA agent who was posing as a hitman.
The Indian government official informed Gupta that he was going to target several people in the United States, according to the indictment. The Indian official informed Gupta via communications that he had two targets: one in California and one in New York. “We will hit our all targets,” Gupta retorted. According to the accusation, Pannun was also monitored in New York via a smartphone app that records GPS information and lets users snap pictures. According to the indictment, the Indian official allegedly agreed to pay $100,000 for Pannun’s assassination, with a $15,000 advance sent to the undercover agent around June 9. Less than ten days later, Nijjar was shot and killed outside a Sikh temple in the outskirts of Vancouver.
The indictment claims that Gupta gave the DEA hitman the order to assassinate Pannun “as soon as possible,” but not right before important meetings between American and Indian officials were scheduled. Between June 21 and June 23, Modi was supposed to make an official visit to the United States. The Indian government official emailed Gupta a video of the Sikh leader dead in his car on June 18, the day of Nijjar’s murder. The following day, Gupta is said to have called the undercover DEA agent, saying, “We have so many targets,” and informing them that Nijjar, like Pannun, had also been singled out for his criticism of the Indian government.
Additionally, Gupta is said to have promised the hitman “more jobs, more jobs,” alluding to additional assassinations that would be performed in the future. Approximately one week before Nijjar’s murder, Gupta and other business-casual-wearing males sat in a conference room and allegedly said to the DEA agent over video chat, “We are all counting on you.”
There’s growing evidence that India is targeting dissidents with a worldwide program of targeted killings. According to documents obtained by The Intercept last week, the Research and Analysis Wing of India was allegedly leveraging local criminal networks and resources situated in Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates to plan and carry out killings of individuals in Pakistan. Over the previous few years, a large number of Sikh and Kashmiri separatists have been killed in Pakistan; in recent months, this rate of deaths has increased. Similar killings may be occurring in the West. Apart from Nijjar, several Sikh activists have passed away under suspicious circumstances in the UK and Canada in recent years, leading to claims of Indian government involvement from relatives and other sources.
Gupta was detained in the Czech Republic towards the end of June, according to the indictment. He faces accusations of conspiring to conduct murder for hire as well as murder for hire. According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Gupta is currently “in jail waiting to answer to these charges.”
The allegations made against Gupta broaden the range of information available to the public on India’s purported assassination campaign in Western nations.
“These revelations are deeply unsettling and have shocked our community,” said Singh. “The Indian rogue regime must be held accountable, and the perpetrators must face justice.”