Allegations Against Indian Intelligence in the Pannun Assassination Plot

In an indictment presented by the United States Department of Justice in a federal court in Manhattan, federal prosecutors have levied accusations against an Indian intelligence official, identified as CC-1, for allegedly orchestrating a plot, remotely from India, to assassinate Khalistan separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in New York.

The indictment outlines that the official collaborated with an Indian citizen, Nikhil Gupta, also known as Nick, aged 52, who was apprehended by Czech authorities on June 30. Gupta faces charges of murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, each carrying a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison.

According to the indictment, CC-1, described as a “Senior Field Officer” with responsibilities in “Security Management” and “Intelligence,” and purportedly affiliated with an Indian government agency, recruited Gupta around May 2023 to coordinate the assassination of Pannun in the United States.

The official allegedly assured Gupta that his Gujarat-related case had been “taken care of,” guaranteeing non-interference, and offered to facilitate a meeting between Gupta and a “DCP” (Deputy Commissioner of Police).

The document further discloses that Gupta, based in India, has self-identified in communications with the official and others as being involved in international narcotics and weapons trafficking.

The indictment provides insights into the alleged collaboration between the Indian intelligence official and Gupta, raising concerns about a transnational plot to eliminate Pannun on US soil.

Under the direction of the Indian official, Gupta initiated contact with an individual he believed to be a criminal associate, unaware that this individual was, in reality, a “confidential source” collaborating with US law enforcement. The confidential source, referred to as CS, facilitated Gupta’s introduction to an alleged hitman, who was, in fact, an undercover US law enforcement officer, denoted as UC.

According to the indictment, the Indian official engaged in negotiations brokered by Gupta and agreed to remunerate the undercover officer with USD 100,000 for the assassination of Pannun.

Around June 2, 2023, the Indian official messaged Gupta, urgently seeking an update on the progress of the murder plot, emphasizing its significance and the need for expeditious action. Gupta responded, expressing anticipation of providing an update the following day.

On or about June 3, 2023, Gupta engaged in an audio call with the confidential source, urging swift action in carrying out the murder and emphasizing the importance of expediency.

By June 9, the Indian official and Gupta arranged for an associate to deliver a $15,000 cash advance to the undercover officer as payment for the planned murder. The Indian official’s associate successfully delivered the specified amount to the undercover officer in Manhattan.

During June 2023, the Indian official furnished Gupta with personal information about Pannun, including his residential address in New York City, associated phone numbers, and details regarding his daily activities. Gupta relayed this information to the undercover officer.

The indictment outlines that the Indian official instructed Gupta to provide regular updates on the progress of the assassination plot. Gupta fulfilled this directive by forwarding surveillance photographs of Pannun, among other updates.

Despite Gupta’s urging for prompt execution, he specifically instructed the undercover officer not to carry out the murder around anticipated engagements scheduled in the ensuing weeks involving high-level officials from the US and Indian governments.

Gupta expounded that due to the victim’s (Pannun’s) public prominence as an activist, there might be protests and subsequent “political things” – alluding to potential geopolitical repercussions – if Pannun were assassinated during the planned high-level meetings between U.S. and Indian government officials.

In the context of anticipated future assignments, Gupta conveyed to the Indian official that after the scheduled engagements, there would be “more jobs” signifying additional targeted killings akin to that of the victim.

However, the Indian official instructed Gupta to refrain from executing the assassination immediately before or during the planned engagements between high-level U.S. and Indian government officials. For instance, around June 11, 2023, upon receiving purported surveillance photographs from Gupta, the Indian official messaged Gupta expressing optimism but emphasized the limited time frame, stating that if the event does not occur on that day, it should be executed after the 24th.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Modi undertook a state visit to the U.S. between June 21 and 23, during which he met with U.S. President Joe Biden.

The indictment alludes to the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18, perpetrated by masked gunmen outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia, Canada. Following the incident, the Indian official sent Gupta a video clip depicting Nijjar’s lifeless body in his vehicle. Gupta, expressing a desire for direct involvement, sought permission to participate in the field.

The Indian official cautioned Gupta about the importance of secrecy and dissuaded him from engaging directly in such actions. Subsequently, the Indian official shared Pannun’s residence address in New York City with Gupta.

Gupta forwarded the video clip of Nijjar’s body to the confidential source and the undercover officer shortly after receiving it from the Indian official. In an audio call with the undercover officer on June 19, Gupta disclosed that Nijjar was also a target, ranking as the fourth priority, and mentioned having multiple targets.

In a shift from previous instructions to delay the victim’s (Pannun’s) killing until after the scheduled engagements, Gupta informed the source that the undercover officer should now proceed as soon as possible, attributing the change to Nijjar’s murder.

Gupta anticipated Pannun’s heightened vigilance following Nijjar’s murder and instructed the source to eliminate him swiftly, emphasizing the need to take down anyone accompanying him in a meeting.

On or about June 19, Gupta informed the undercover officer that Nijjar was also a target and that they had numerous targets. Gupta expressed the urgency to proceed with the victim’s (Pannun’s) killing. On June 20, the Indian official conveyed to Gupta that Pannun’s case was now a priority. Shortly afterward, Gupta directed the confidential source to seize the opportunity to kill Pannun promptly, emphasizing the need for swift action. Gupta outlined a timeline, stating that four jobs, including the victim (Pannun), needed to be completed before June 29.

Muhammad Wasama Khalid is a Correspondent and Researcher at Global Affairs. He is pursuing his Bachelors in International Relations at National Defense University (NDU). He has a profound interest in history, politics, current affairs, and international relations. He is an author of Global Village Space, Global Defense Insight, Global Affairs, and Modern Diplomacy. He tweets at @Wasama Khalid and can be reached at Wasamakhalid@gmail.com

Wasama Khalid
Wasama Khalid

Muhammad Wasama Khalid is a Correspondent and Researcher at Global Affairs. He is pursuing his Bachelors in International Relations at National Defense University (NDU). He has a profound interest in history, politics, current affairs, and international relations. He is an author of Global Village Space, Global Defense Insight, Global Affairs, and Modern Diplomacy. He tweets at @Wasama Khalid and can be reached at Wasamakhalid@gmail.com

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