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Indian national extradited to U.S. to stand trial in alleged plot to kill Sikh activist in New York

An Indian national accused of helping plot to kill a U.S. citizen in New York City has been extradited to the U.S. to stand trial. 

A U.S. District Court spokesman said Nikhil Gupta is scheduled to appear Monday in the lower Manhattan courthouse on federal murder-for-hire charges.

The Justice Department alleges that Gupta, 52, is an associate of an Indian government “senior field officer” and that together they and others helped plot the assassination of a Sikh separatist and critic of the Indian government in New York City. 

That critic has been identified as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, whom Indian officials have labeled a terrorist, according to The Associated Press.

Pannun — believed to be the target of the alleged plot — advocates for an independent Punjab region for India’s Sikh population, officials said. 

In November, Justice Department officials announced charges against Gupta after he was arrested in June in the Czech Republic. They said he would face extradition to New York. 

Prosecutors said that Gupta has claimed to be a drug and weapons trafficker who thought he was contacting a hitman but that it turned out he was speaking with a source for the Drug Enforcement Administration. The source connected Gupta with a purported hitman who was actually an undercover DEA officer, according to an indictment.

DEA and FBI officials have said Gupta offered to pay $100,000 for the murder and provided surveillance photos of the alleged target in June 2023. 

Around that time in Canada, on June 18, gunmen shot and killed another Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia. 

Investigators said that after the killing, Gupta boasted to the undercover officer that Nijjar “was also the target” and “we have so many targets” and that he said he wanted the operation in New York to proceed soon. 

India’s foreign ministry has called allegations the Indian government was involved in plotting assassinations in Canada or the U.S. “absurd.”

FBI and DEA spokespeople declined to comment on the extradition.  A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney also declined to comment. 

Gupta was charged with murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, both of which carry maximum sentences of 10 years in prison if he is convicted.

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