Nikhil Gupta asked 'hitman' not to kill Sikh separatist leader around scheduled meetings between India and US

International |  IANS  | Published :

New York, Nov 30 (IANS) US federal prosecutors have charged an Indian national in an alleged 'murder-for-hire' plot to try to assassinate a Sikh political activist in New York, a media report said.

Authorities said Nikhil Gupta (52) worked with an unnamed Indian official to set up a meeting with an undercover officer he believed to be a hitman to target the victim, a US citizen who is unnamed in the indictment but described as an attorney and vocal critic of the Indian government, CNN reported.

The Indian official agreed to pay $100,000 to the undercover officer for the arranged murder, the report said.

Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun -- a dual citizen of the United States and Canada -- was allegedly the target of the plot, sources said.

According to the indictment, an Indian government official recruited Gupta to “orchestrate” the assassination. At the official’s direction, prosecutors say, Gupta contacted someone in June he believed to be a hitman – but who was actually working with law enforcement – to murder Pannun, CNN reported.

The Indian official gave Pannun’s home address, phone numbers and details of his daily activities, prosecutors alleged. The official also sent Gupta a video of Hardeep Singh Nijjar's “bloody body slumped in his vehicle” just hours after the murder occurred, according to the indictment.

Nijjar, who was the chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force and one of India's most-wanted terrorists, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Canada in June this year.

Gupta also asked the supposed hitman to carry out the murder “as soon as possible", but instructed him “not to commit the murder around the time of anticipated engagements scheduled to occur in the ensuing weeks between high-level US and Indian government officials", court documents said, CNN reported.

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