Suspect sent to U.S. for trial, accused in plot to murder Sikh nationalist

Indian national charged with plotting the murder for hire of a Sikh activist is extradited to the US
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In this June 2023 photo taken by an undercover agent and provided by the U.S. Attorney’s office, an undercover agent posing as a hitman, left, holds money received as a partial advance payment for murder during a transaction in New York. U.S. officials became aware in the spring of a plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, an American citizen who advocates for the creation of a sovereign Sikh state. Under the indictment, Nikhil Gupta, 52, an Indian national, faces charges including murder for hire. Gupta, was extradited from the Czech Republic to the United States to face charges of murder for hire and conspiracy to commit murder for hire, Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blažek said on Monday, June 17, 2024. (U.S. Attorney’s Office via AP, file)

An Indian national was extradited from the Czech Republic to the United States to face charges of murder for hire and conspiracy to commit murder for hire, Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blažek said on Monday.

Nikhil Gupta was extradited on Friday after Blažek gave the green light for the move that was previously approved by Czech courts, the minister wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

According to the U.S. indictment, Gupta was recruited in May by an unidentified Indian government employee to orchestrate the assassination of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a prominent Sikh separatist leader  living in New York City.

In November, U.S. prosecutors announced that a plot to kill Pannun had been thwarted after a sting operation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Gupta was arrested in Prague last June under a bilateral extradition treaty between the U.S. and the Czech Republic. He denied any involvement in the case.

If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

Pannun advocates for the creation of a sovereign Sikh state and is considered a terrorist by the Indian government.

Gupta’s Czech attorney, Petr Slepička, previously told The Associated Press that he was planning to file a constitutional complain to the country’s highest legal authority and ask the minister not to allow the extradition.

“It’s a political case,” he said.

The indictment says Gupta contacted a criminal associate to help find a hitman to carry out the killing, but that person happened to be a confidential source working with the DEA. The confidential source then introduced Gupta to a purported hitman, who was actually a DEA agent, it said.

The charges were the second major recent accusation of complicity of Indian government officials in attempts to kill Sikh separatist figures living in North America.

In September, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there were credible allegations that the Indian government had links to the assassination in that country of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. India rejected the accusation as absurd.

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