Indian government official directs assassination plot of prominent Sikh separatist living in New York City, U.S. prosecutors say
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. authorities have charged an individual allegedly involved in a scheme to murder Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun who resides in New York City. According to prosecutors, Indian government officials were also involved in the assassination conspiracy against Pannun, a prominent advocate for the establishment of a sovereign Sikh state.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration initiated a sting operation by using an undercover agent to pose as a hitman after discovering the plot to assassinate Pannun. The co-conspirators, who recruited an international drug trafficker, offered $100,000 to carry out the murder. The indictment reveals that a senior field officer, described as a member of India’s Central Reserve Police Force, was involved in the plot, but the official has not been publicly named or charged.
The charges focus on Nikhil Gupta, a 52-year-old Indian citizen, accused of being part of a murder-for-hire conspiracy. Prosecutors indicated that the defendant was behind the assassination scheme while residing in India. The charges carry a potential 20-year prison sentence. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams expressed the seriousness of the indictment, stating that such actions against U.S. citizens will not be tolerated and that those responsible will be prosecuted.
The case underscores growing tensions, as both the U.S. and Canadian governments have raised concerns about similar efforts to eliminate Sikh separatist figures. Pannun, who has been targeted before, stated that he is not afraid of death and is willing to pay the ultimate price to run his campaign. The charges follow previous accusations made by Canadian officials, furthering diplomatic strains between India and the Western nations.
It remains to be seen how this case will affect the relationship between the U.S. and India, as the Biden administration has been fostering stronger ties with the Asian nation. Such developments are bound to have far-reaching implications and will undoubtedly spark heated debates and discussions worldwide.