Nikhil Gupta, accused of murder for hire plot, extradited to US

| | Washington
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Nikhil Gupta, accused of murder for hire plot, extradited to US

Monday, 17 June 2024 | PTI | Washington

Nikhil Gupta, accused of murder for hire plot, extradited to US

Indian national Nikhil Gupta, accused of being involved in a murder-for-hire plot against a Sikh extremist on American soil, has been extradited to the US from the Czech Republic, media reports here.

Gupta, 52, was arrested in the Czech Republic last year at the request of the US government on charges of being involved in a plot to assassinate Khalistani separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, an American citizen, in New York.

The Czech Constitutional Court last month rejected a petition by Gupta against his extradition to the US to face the charges.

US federal prosecutors allege that Gupta had been working according to the directions of an unnamed Indian government official.

India has however denied its involvement in such a case and has instituted a high-level investigation into the allegations.

Gupta is currently lodged at the federal Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn and expected to be produced before a federal court in New York on Monday.

Gupta is listed as an inmate at the Brooklyn detention Centre, according to The Washington Post -- the first news outlet to report his extradition.

“Gupta, who had been detained in the Czech Republic, arrived in New York over the weekend, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive legal proceedings. Typically, extradited defendants must appear in court within a day of their arrival in the country,” the report said.

Federal prosecutors allege that Gupta hired a hitman to kill Pannun and paid USD 15,000 in advance.

Gupta, through his attorney, has denied the charges and said that he has been "unfairly charged".

“Gupta's attorney, Rohini Musa, wrote in a petition to the Indian Supreme Court that her client is being unfairly prosecuted, saying there is 'nothing on record to link the petitioner to the massive alleged plot to assassinate the alleged victim',” The Washington Post said.

“Musa complained that Gupta received adverse legal advice from a Czech government-appointed attorney “under the undue influence of … US Agencies” during the initial phase of his detention.

She said India and the United States were “going back and forth to blame each other for their foreign policy”, the daily reported.

Gupta's extradition comes ahead of US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's planned visit to New Delhi this week for the annual initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) dialogue with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.

Pannun holds dual American and Canadian citizenship.

The Washington Post in April 2024 reported that Vikram Yadav, a Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) officer, was the Indian official behind the plot. The paper also said the then R&AW chief Samant Goel sanctioned the operation.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs, however, dismissed the report, saying it makes “unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations” to claim that Indian agents were involved in the plot to kill Pannun.

India has publicly said a high-level inquiry is looking into the evidence shared by the US in the alleged plot to kill Pannun.

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