New York City, NY – Today, in the Southern District of New York, a superseding indictment was unsealed, revealing shocking murder-for-hire charges against Indian national Nikhil Gupta, also known as Nick, aged 52. Gupta stands accused of orchestrating a failed plot to assassinate a U.S. citizen residing in New York City. Czech authorities arrested Gupta on June 30, 2023, based on the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and the Czech Republic.
According to court documents, the plot was directed earlier this year by an Indian government employee, identified as CC-1, who worked in collaboration with Gupta and others in India and beyond. The target of the assassination plot was an attorney and political activist, a U.S. citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City.
Gupta, residing in India, is described as an associate of CC-1 and has acknowledged involvement in international narcotics and weapons trafficking. CC-1, an employee of an Indian government agency, has variously presented himself as a “Senior Field Officer” with responsibilities in “Security Management” and “Intelligence.” CC-1 directed the assassination plot from India.
In May 2023, CC-1 recruited Gupta to coordinate the assassination of the Victim, a vocal critic of the Indian government and leader of a U.S.-based organization advocating for the secession of Punjab, a state in northern India. The Victim has publicly called for the establishment of a Sikh sovereign state called Khalistan, leading to the Indian government banning him and his organization from India.
Under CC-1’s direction, Gupta contacted an individual he believed to be a criminal associate, who was, in fact, a confidential source working with U.S. law enforcement. Gupta was introduced to an undercover U.S. law enforcement officer posing as a hitman. CC-1 agreed to pay $100,000 for the murder, with an initial $15,000 delivered to the undercover officer in Manhattan in June 2023.
As the plot unfolded, CC-1 provided Gupta with personal information about the Victim, including the Victim’s home address, phone numbers, and daily activities. Gupta then passed this information to the undercover officer. CC-1 instructed Gupta to provide regular updates on the plot’s progress, including surveillance photographs of the Victim.
On June 18, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an associate of the Victim and a leader of the Sikh separatist movement, was murdered in British Columbia, Canada, by masked gunmen. On June 19, Gupta informed the undercover officer that Nijjar “was also the target” and that “we have so many targets.” In light of Nijjar’s murder, Gupta urged the immediate execution of the plot against the Victim.
Gupta is charged with murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, with each count carrying a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison. The investigation is being led by the DEA’s New York Division and the Counterintelligence Division of the FBI’s New York Field Office, collaborating with various international law enforcement agencies.
Last week, a Financial Times story reported that the U.S. had thwarted a plot to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, General Counsel for Sikhs for Justice, and that a criminal indictment had been filed in New York. Pannun is not named in todays unsealed indictment, but the details in the indictment match the Financial Times story.
Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, stated, “We have already said that during the course of discussions with the US on bilateral security cooperation, the US side shared some inputs pertaining to the nexus between organized criminals, gun runners, terrorists, and others. We had also indicated that India takes such inputs seriously since they impinge on our national security interests as well, and relevant departments were already examining the issue. In this context, it is informed that on 18 November 2023, the Government of India constituted a high-level Enquiry Committee to look into all the relevant aspects of the matter. The Government of India will take necessary follow-up action based on the findings of the Enquiry Committee.”
Pannun issued a statement saying, “An Indian Hindu “Nikhil Gupta” has been indicted for assassination attempt but in fact this is an indictment against Indian Prime Minister “Narendra Modi”, a known human rights violator who has a track record of using violence to suppress criticism and dissenting political opinion.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Camille L. Fletcher, Ashley C. Nicolas, and Alexander Li are prosecuting the case with assistance from Trial Attorneys Christopher Cook and Robert McCullers. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.