New Delhi, November 29
The US government on Wednesday announced the filing of murder-for-hire charges against an Indian-origin narcotics smuggler Nikhil Gupta alias Nick, 52, and an unnamed Indian government for an attempt to “assassinate a US citizen in New York City”.
According to the US government, an Indian government official based in Delhi contacted Gupta who in turn contacted an individual to carry out the killing. However, the alleged killer contacted by Gupta was in fact a confidential source working with the US Drug Enforcement Department (DEA).
The source introduced Gupta to a purported hitman, who was a DEA undercover officer. This official agreed to carry out the killing for $100,000 and Gupta paid him an advance of $15,000 on June 9.
The Indian government official in the same month of June 2023 provided Gupta with the victim’s (Pannun) home address, phone numbers and details about his Victim’s day-to-day conduct. Gupta passed on to the purported hitman these details as well as Pannun’s surveillance photographs. The murder was to be carried out “around the time of anticipated engagements scheduled to occur in the ensuing weeks between high-level US and Indian government officials,” said the US Department of Justice (DoJ).
According to formal charges filed in a court, “a foreign government employee allegedly committed the brazen act of recruiting an international narcotics trafficker to murder a US citizen on US soil”.
Gupta has been arrested and detained in Czech on June 30 this year on a request by the US.
“We will not tolerate efforts to assassinate US citizens on US soil, and stand ready to investigate, thwart, and prosecute anyone who seeks to harm and silence Americans here or abroad,” said US Attorney Damian Williams.
Hours earlier, the MEA had revealed that New Delhi had set up a “high level committee” on November 18 to formally investigate security concerns aired by the US. The Financial Times had on November 22 first reported the thwarted plot against Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in the US. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that top US security officials including the CIA chief William Burns and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had especially traveled to India in the past few months to press for resolution of the issue.
The DoJ also mentioned that on June 18, 2023, masked gunmen murdered Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada. Gupta had told the undercover DEA agent that Nijjar “was also the target” and “we have so many targets”. After the murder, Gupta reportedly said, “now no need to wait” and subsequently messaged, “its a priority now”.
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