An Indian government official directed an unsuccessful plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist in New York City, US justice chiefs have claimed.
They allege the Indian government employee, who worked in security and intelligence, recruited another Indian national named as Nikhil Gupta to plan the assassination of a US citizen who had advocated for a Sikh sovereign state in northern India.
It comes after the Canadian government sparked a diplomatic row by claiming India may have been involved in the June killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia.
On Wednesday, US Department of Justice (DoJ) officials announced charges against Gupta, 52, who they claim worked with the Indian government employee on the alleged plot to kill the US citizen.
The Indian government official is named only as CC-1 but has described himself as a “senior field officer” with responsibilities in “security management” and “intelligence” and also claims to have served in India’s Central Reserve Police Force and been trained in “battle craft” and “weapons,” an indictment against Gupta said.
Prosecutors allege the Indian official recruited Gupta in May 2023 to orchestrate the assassination, and he then reached out to someone he believed was a criminal associate for help hiring a hitman.
However, prosecutors said the associate was actually an undercover agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
According to the indictment, released on Wednesday, Gupta agreed to a $100,000 fee for the killing and paid $15,000 upfront via an associate.
The target of the assassination was not named in the court documents, but the Associated Press identified him as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun – a US-based Sikh separatist whom the Indian government considers a terrorist.