An Indian national was on Wednesday charged here by federal prosecutors in connection with his participation in a foiled plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist on American soil.
Nikhil Gupta, 52, has been charged with murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Matthew G. Olsen said.
US authorities said Gupta agreed to pay an assassin USD 100,000 to kill the Sikh separatist leader living in New York City.
"On or about June 9, 2023, CC-1 and GUPTA arranged for an associate to deliver USD 15,000 in cash to the UC in Manhattan, New York, as an advance payment for the murder," according to the charges.
The indictment has not named the US citizen but 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.
"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," United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said in a statement.
Williams said that his Office and law enforcement partners neutralised this “deadly and outrageous threat. 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.”
The Superseding Indictment unsealed Wednesday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York said and other public court documents details the alleged plot in which Gupta was involved.
In about May 2023, Gupta was recruited by an individual to orchestrate the assassination of the victim in the United States.
Prosecutors said that Czech authorities arrested and detained Gupta on June 30, 2023, pursuant to the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and the Czech Republic.
Gupta was arrested in the Czech Republic at the request of the United States in connection with his participation in the plot to murder the individual. It was not immediately clear when Gupta might be extradited to the US.
The development came on a day when India said that it has constituted a high-level enquiry committee to probe allegations relating to a conspiracy to kill the Sikh extremist on American soil.
On Wednesday, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said the US side shared some "inputs" pertaining to nexus between organised criminals, gun runners and terrorists and that India takes such inputs seriously since they impinge on "our national security interests as well" and that relevant departments were examining the issue.
India constituted a high-level enquiry committee on November 18 to look into all the relevant aspects of the matter, he said.
-With PTI Input