Who is Nikhil Gupta, man accused in attempted assassination of Khalistan terrorist

New Delhi | Updated: 01 December, 2023 8:19 pm IST
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Khalistani terrorist with dual American and Canadian citizenship, is the purported target of the conspiracy on US soil.

US federal prosecutors have filed charges against Nikhil Gupta, an Indian citizen, accusing him of collaborating with an Indian government official to plot the assassination of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. Pannun, identified as a Khalistani terrorist with dual American and Canadian citizenship, is the alleged target of the conspiracy intended to take place on US territory.

Gupta is charged with attempting to engage a hitman; however, the hitman was revealed to be an undercover agent from the US federal government. Currently held in the Czech Republic, the 52-year-old awaits extradition to the US, where he could potentially face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison upon conviction.

Who is CC-1?

An unidentified senior Indian official is facing accusations of purportedly masterminding a plot to assassinate Pannun in New York City. The Financial Times, without disclosing its sources, recently stated that US authorities had uncovered the assassination plot against Pannun.

In a legal indictment, American federal prosecutors have referred to the Indian official as “CC-1” and alleged that he orchestrated the plot from India with the aim of eliminating “a US citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City, who is both an attorney and a political activist.”

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“Beginning in or about early May 2023, in a series of telephonic and electronic communications between CC-1 and Gupta over encrypted applications, CC-1 asked Gupta to arrange the murder of the Victim in exchange for CC-1’s assistance in securing the dismissal of a criminal case against Gupta in India.

“Gupta agreed to orchestrate the assassination. In addition to their electronic communications, Gupta also met CC-1 in person in New Delhi in furtherance of the plot,” the US Department of Justice indictment claims.

Commencing their encrypted messaging app discussion on May 6, 2023, the government official from India reportedly messaged Gupta, stating, “This is (CC-1)… Save my name as (CC-1 Alias).” Gupta then saved CC-1’s phone number using the provided alias. Shortly thereafter, as per the indictment, CC-1 conveyed to Gupta that there was a “target in New York” and another in “California.”

Following the guidance of CC-1, Gupta purportedly enlisted the help of a person he thought to be a criminal accomplice. Unbeknownst to Gupta, this person was, in fact, a confidential informant collaborating with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Gupta sought the aid of this informant to recruit a hitman for the alleged murder of Pannun in New York City.

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Afterward, CC-1 purportedly finalised a deal with the undercover officer, facilitated by Gupta, agreeing to pay $100,000 for the planned assassination. Described as an “international narcotics trafficker” by the US, Gupta was apprehended in the Czech Republic in June 2023 at the request of the US.

India’s Response:

“As regards the case against an individual that has been filed in a US court, allegedly linking him to an Indian official, this is a matter of concern,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a media briefing on Thursday. “We have said and let me reiterate that this is also contrary to government policy.”

The US has welcomed India’s efforts to probe the matter.

“The (Indian) government announced today that it was conducting an investigation, and that’s good and appropriate, and we look forward to seeing the results,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday.

“So you’ll understand I can’t comment on it in detail. I can say that this is something we take very seriously. A number of us have raised this directly with the Indian Government in past weeks.”

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