Indian Government Employee Charged in Foiled Plot to Assassinate U.S.-Based Sikh Separatist Leader

Indian Government Employee Charged in Foiled Plot to Assassinate U.S.-Based Sikh Separatist Leader

In a joint announcement, Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Anne Milgram, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), and James Smith, Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), revealed murder-for-hire charges against Indian national Nikhil Gupta. The charges stem from Gupta’s alleged involvement in a thwarted plot to assassinate a U.S. citizen in New York City. The Superseding Indictment was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where the case is pending before U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero.

Czech authorities arrested and detained Gupta on June 30, 2023, based on the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and the Czech Republic.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated, “We will not tolerate efforts to assassinate U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, and stand ready to investigate, thwart, and prosecute anyone who seeks to harm and silence Americans here or abroad.”

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen emphasized the dedication of law enforcement agents and prosecutors in exposing a dangerous plot to assassinate a U.S. citizen on American soil. Olsen asserted that the Department of Justice would relentlessly pursue accountability for such lethal plotting originating from overseas.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram commended the DEA New York Field Division’s leadership and federal and global law enforcement partners for their assistance in stopping the alleged assassination plot.

FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith highlighted the real and serious nature of the murder-for-hire plot, commending the teamwork of law enforcement partners for exposing the conspiracy.

According to the Superseding Indictment: Earlier this year, an Indian government employee (“CC-1”) collaborated with others, including Gupta, in India and elsewhere, to direct a plot to assassinate a U.S. citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City, known as the “Victim.”

Gupta, an Indian national associated with CC-1, allegedly participated in international narcotics and weapons trafficking. CC-1, described as a “Senior Field Officer” in an Indian government agency, directed the assassination plot from India.

In May 2023, CC-1 recruited Gupta to orchestrate 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. Gupta contacted a confidential source working with the DEA for assistance in hiring a hitman. CC-1 agreed to pay $100,000 to an undercover DEA officer for the murder.

In June 2023, CC-1 provided Gupta with the Victim’s personal information, instructing him to provide regular updates on the plot’s progress. Gupta instructed the undercover officer to carry out the murder as soon as possible, but not around the time of anticipated engagements between high-level U.S. and Indian government officials.

Gupta faces charges of murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, each carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The investigation involved the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, the FBI’s New York Field Office, the DEA’s Special Operations Division, the DEA’s Vienna Country Office, the FBI’s Prague Country Office, and other entities.

The charges are accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.