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Plot to kill Gurpatwant Pannu: US files murder-for-hire charge against Indian official, smuggler

The US government today announced the filing of murder-for-hire charges against an Indian-origin narcotics smuggler, Nikhil Gupta, alias Nick (52), and an unnamed Indian Government official for an attempt to “assassinate a US citizen in New York City”.

According to the US government, an Indian Government official based in Delhi contacted Gupta, who in turn contacted an individual to carry out the killing. However, the alleged killer contacted by Gupta was in fact a confidential source working with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The source introduced Gupta to a purported hitman, who was a DEA undercover officer. The official agreed to carry out the killing for $100,000 and Gupta paid him an advance of $15,000 on June 9.

The Indian Government official in the same month (June 2023) provided Gupta with Sikh terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannu’s home address, phone numbers and details about his day-to-day conduct. Gupta passed on these details as well as Pannu’s surveillance photographs to the purported hitman. The murder was to be carried out “around the time of anticipated engagements scheduled to occur in the ensuing weeks between high-level US and Indian Government officials,” said the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

According to the formal charges filed in a court, “a foreign government employee allegedly committed the brazen act of recruiting an international narcotics trafficker to murder a US citizen on US soil”. Gupta was arrested in Czech Republic on June 30 this year on a request by the US.

“We will not tolerate efforts to assassinate US citizens on US soil, and stand ready to investigate, thwart and prosecute anyone who seeks to harm and silence Americans here or abroad,” said US attorney Damian Williams.

Hours earlier, the MEA had revealed that New Delhi had set up a “high-level committee” on November 18 to formally investigate security concerns aired by the US.

MEA spokesman Arindam Bagchi said the US side shared some “inputs” pertaining to nexus between criminals, gun runners and terrorists, and relevant departments were examining the issue.

The Financial Times had on November 22 first reported the thwarted plot against Pannu in the US. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that top US security officials, including CIA chief William Burns and NSA Jake Sullivan, had travelled to India in the past few months to press for a resolution of the issue. The DoJ also mentioned that on June 18, 2023, masked gunmen murdered Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada. Gupta had told the undercover DEA agent that Nijjar “was also the target”.

Undercover operation

  • According to US, an Indian official based in Delhi contacted narcotics smuggler Nikhil Gupta, who in turn got in touch with an individual to carry out the killing
  • However, the person contacted by Gupta was a confidential source working with US DEA. The source introduced Gupta to a purported hitman, a DEA undercover officer
  • The official agreed to carry out the killing for $100,000 and Gupta paid him an advance of $15,000 on June 9

India set up probe panel on Nov 18

The Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday revealed that New Delhi had set up a “high-level committee” on November 18 to formally investigate security concerns aired by the US.

Won’t tolerate harm to US citizens

We will prosecute anyone who seeks to harm and silence Americans in US or abroad. — Damian Williams, US attorney

An alleged suicide attempt by an employee of the TB clinic of Civil Hospital, Faridkot, has led to the suspension of all medical services for the past three days here.

The paramedical staff of the district hospital staged a protest today, demanding that a police case be lodged against Assistant Civil Surgeon (ACS) Mandeep Kaur Khangura, accusing her of harassing the employee.

“We met the Health Minister and other authorities in the Health Department and informed them of the ACS’ behaviour. We were assured that she would be transferred but no action had been taken. Three days ago, Harmandeep, an employee in the TB clinic of the hospital, attempted suicide after being allegedly harassed by the ACS,” a protester said.

However, in her representation to the Deputy Commissioner, ACS Mandeep Kaur, who is also the District Tuberculosis Officer, claimed that the employees were annoyed at her after she asked them to work diligently.

While the protest has left hundreds of patients in the lurch, Civil Surgeon Anil Goyal claimed that the doctors were performing their duties and every patient was receiving treatment, adding that a three-member committee had been set up to probe the incident.

However, the protesting employees allege that the district authorities and the police are buying time.

Sources said that the police were hesitant to take action against the ACS as it would lead to a criminal case against Harmandeep under Section 309 of the IPC.

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