US: 'Defendant Conspired From India' to Have This Man Killed

American prosecutors have charged an Indian man who they say tried to hire a hit man
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2023 11:10 AM CST
US Reveals Alleged Plot to Murder Sikh Activist in NYC
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, left, speaks, Sept. 26, 2014, in New York.   (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

US prosecutors have charged an Indian man with trying to take out a hit on a US citizen living in New York City. In an indictment unsealed Wednesday, prosecutors allege Nikhil Gupta, 52, paid someone he believed to be a hit man $100,000 to murder Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. The Wall Street Journal describes Pannun as an "advocate for carving out an independent Sikh homeland from the north Indian state of Punjab" and frames the news as "a dramatic development that threatens to cause new rifts in the deepening relationship between Washington and New Delhi."

"As alleged, the defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a US citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs, an ethnoreligious minority group in India," US Attorney Damian Williams said in a release, per the AP. Gupta was allegedly recruited in May by an employee of an Indian government agency who instructed him on which steps to take. That employee reportedly described himself as a "senior field officer" who claimed to have served in India's Central Reserve Police Force.

Per the indictment, Gupta reached out to a "criminal associate" to locate a hit man, but the associate was actually a confidential source for the Drug Enforcement Administration. The associate introduced Gupta to a "hit man"—in truth a DEA agent, per the indictment. Gupta was arrested in the Czech Republic on June 30; it's unclear when he'll be extradited to the US. India has kick-started a high-level inquiry into the matter after the US raised concerns that the Indian government may have been aware of the plot. The AP reports Pannun is considered a terrorist by the Indian government, with CNN's sources reporting "Sikhs for Justice," the organization he runs, is banned in India, where its website can't be accessed. (More India stories.)

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