US Dept of Justice Charges Indian National For Assassination Attempt on Pannun
"The US Justice Department released details of their investigation into the Indian plot to assassinate SFJ’s Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh US citizen, on US soil..."
November 29, 2023 | 3 min. read | Original Reporting
[Editor’s Note: The story has been updated with further details from the indictment document]
The US Justice Department released details of their investigation into the Indian plot to assassinate SFJ’s Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh US citizen, on US soil, which has also led to charges being laid against an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta. Pannun’s organization is leading the Khalistan Referendum.
Here are the key takeaways from the Justice Department release:
"Czech authorities arrested and detained Gupta on June 30, 2023 pursuant to the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and the Czech Republic."
"[E]arlier this year, an Indian government employee (CC-1), working together with others, including Gupta, in India and elsewhere, directed a plot to assassinate on U.S. soil an attorney and political activist who is a U.S. citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City (the Victim)."
"Gupta is an Indian national who resides in India, is an associate of CC-1 and has described his involvement in international narcotics and weapons trafficking in his communications with CC-1 and others."
"CC-1 is an Indian government agency employee who has variously described himself as a ‘Senior Field Officer’ with responsibilities in ‘Security Management’ and ‘Intelligence,’ and who also has referenced previously serving in India’s Central Reserve Police Force and receiving ‘officer training’ in ‘battle craft’ and ‘weapons.’ CC-1 directed the assassination plot from India."
"At CC-1’s direction, Gupta contacted an individual whom Gupta believed to be a criminal associate, but who was in fact a confidential source working with U.S. law enforcement (the CS), for assistance in contracting a hitman to murder the Victim in New York City. The CS introduced Gupta to a purported hitman, who was in fact an undercover U.S. law enforcement officer (the UC)."
"CC-1 subsequently agreed in dealings brokered by Gupta to pay the UC $100,000 to murder the Victim."
"Gupta directed the UC to carry out the murder as soon as possible, but Gupta also specifically instructed the UC not to commit the murder around the time of anticipated engagements scheduled to occur in the ensuing weeks between high-level U.S. and Indian government officials."
"On or about June 19, the day after the [Hardeep Singh] Nijjar murder [in Canada], Gupta told the UC that Nijjar 'was also the target' and 'we have so many targets.'"
"Gupta added that, in light of Nijjar’s murder, there was 'now no need to wait' on killing the Victim. On or about June 20, CC-1 sent Gupta a news article about the Victim and messaged Gupta, '[i]t’s [a] priority now.'"
"Gupta is charged with murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire. Each count carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison."
The following details are found in the detailed indictment, including some more information about Gupta’s background, and the scale of the assassination program in the US and Canada:
“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 also informed the CS and the UC that after the murder of the Victim,
GUPTA's confederates would provide the CS and the UC with additional victims to kill.”
“On or about June 12, 2023, on a call with the CS, GUPTA stated that there was a
‘big target’ in Canada.”
“Soon after, on or about June 19, 2023, GUPTA spoke with the UC by audio call, and GUPTA told the UC that Nijjar ‘was also the target’ but that Nijjar was ‘#4, #3’ on the list, and ‘not to worry [because] we have so many targets, we have so many targets.’”
“GUPTA also told the CS to expect the Victim to be more careful in the wake of the Nijjar murder: ‘He will be more cautious, because in Canada, his colleague is down. His colleague is down. I sent you the video. So he will be more cautious, so we should not give them the chance, any chance.’ GUPTA added: ‘Ifhe is not alone, [if] there are two guys with him in the meeting or something…put everyone down, put everyone down.’”
“The following day, on or about June 20, 2023, CC-1 sent GUPTA a news article
about the Victim. CC-1 then messaged: ‘It's [a] priority now.’ Shortly thereafter, GUPTA spoke to the CS by audio call, and GUPTA directed the CS to ‘find the opportunity’ to kill the Victim and to ‘do it quicldy.’ GUPTA stated that before the ‘29th [of June] we have to finish four jobs,’ i. e., the Victim and, after that, ‘three in Canada.’”
Washington Post has reported that the “discovery of a plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist on U.S. soil earlier this year so concerned the Biden administration that it dispatched its top two intelligence officials to New Delhi.”
“CIA Director William J. Burns flew to India in August and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines followed in October,” to demand that the Indian government investigate their role in the assassination attempt and hold those responsible accountable.
The plan to kill Pannun was thwarted by American authorities "shortly after" Canada's Hardeep Singh Nijjar was assassinated in Surrey, Canada.
Trudeau had shared in Parliament that Canadian intelligence believes that India was behind Nijjar's assassination. Intel from Five Eye allies was used by Canada to make those allegations.
"...U.S. lawmakers have become increasingly concerned about what they see as an audacious campaign of transnational repression by India of Sikh separatists in North America," Washington Post wrote.
Jaskaran Sandhu hails from Brampton, Canada, and is the co-founder of Baaz. He is a Strategist at the public affairs and relations agency State Strategy. Jaskaran also previously served as Executive Director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada and as a Senior Advisor to Brampton’s Office of the Mayor. You can find Jaskaran on Twitter at @JaskaranSandhu_
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