Latest News:

Over Seas » Sikh News » World News

A Timeline of India’s Thwarted Assassination Plot as Revealed in US DoJ Indictment

December 6, 2023 | By

Chandigarh: The United States of America’s Justice Department on November 29, 2023 unsealed the indictment against an Indian citizen for alleged plot to assassinate a US citizen on US soil. The target, identified in the indictment only as ‘the Victim’, is apparently Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the general counsel for Sikhs for Justice, a US based advocacy group which is conducting a non-binding referendum to secession of Punjab from India.

The plotters identified by the US prosecutors are Nikhil Gupta alias Nik, an Indian national, and ‘CC-1’, an Indian government employee. Both were based in India and directed the operation from here.

In the indictment, a copy of which was released by the Justice Department in public domain, Nikhil Gupta is described as an associate of ‘CC-1’. Nikhil Gupta is said to be involved in international narcotics and weapons trafficking.

The indictment does not disclose the identity of the Indian official but do describe him as an “identified Indian government agency employee who has variously described himself as a ‘Senior Field Officer’ with responsibilities in ‘Security Management’ and ‘Intelligence,’ and who also has referenced previously serving in India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and receiving “officer[] training” in “battle craft” and “weapons”.

The indictment notes that Nikhil Gupta contacted an individual (“CS”) who he believed was a criminal associate, but who was in fact a confidential source working with US law enforcement. Gupta sought assistance of CS in contracting a hitman to murder the Victim in New York City. The CS introduced Gupta to a purported hitman, who was in fact an undercover US law enforcement officer (the “UC”).

The following is a timeline of events, as alleged by the US Department of Justice. It began with CC-1 recruiting Nikhil Gupta in early May this year, to file charges related to the thwarted plot on November 29.

The Indian government official and Gupta also drop hints, as per the charges, that Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was killed in a shooting outside a gurdwara in British Columbia in June, was their ‘target’, as well plans to hit other ‘targets’ in Canada.

A timeline of events as revealed in the DoJ Indictment:

Early May 2023: In a series of telephonic and electronic communications between CC-1 and Gupta over encrypted applications, CC-1 asks Gupta to arrange the murder of the Victim in exchange for CC-1’s assistance in securing the dismissal of a criminal case against Gupta in India. Gupta agrees to orchestrate the assassination. Gupta also met CC-1 in person in New Delhi.

May 6, 2023: CC-1 messages Gupta over an encrypted messaging application about a “target in New York” and another target in “California.” Gupta replies: “We will hit all our Targets.” The telephone number used by CC-1 has an India country code and is registered to an email account that accessed the Internet during the period of the murder plot on numerous occasions from the vicinity of New Delhi. CC-1 worked during the relevant time period for an Indian government agency.

May 12, 2023: CC-1 tells Gupta that his criminal case “has already been taken care of,” and that “nobody from Gujrat (sic) police is calling.”

May 23, 2023: CC-1 again assures Gupta that he had “spoke[n] with the boss” about the Gujarat case and that it was “all clear,” and “nobody will ever bother you again.” CC-1 offers to arrange a meeting between Gupta and a deputy commissioner of police.

May 29, 2023: Gupta asks the CS by phone if the CS knew anyone who would be willing to carry out a murder-for-hire in the US. Gupta explains that the intended victim was a lawyer who split time between New York City and another US city. The CS says he will reach out to his contacts.

May 29, 2023: Gupta messages the CS the Victim’s name and other information about the Victim. Says the Victim spent most of his time in New York. In response, the CS asks Gupta for additional information about the Victim and details about payment for the murder.

May 29, 2023: Gupta sends screenshots to CC-1 of his text messages with the CS requesting details about the Victim and about payment for killing the Victim. CC-1 says “we are ready to pay $150000… the offer will go higher depending upon the quality of the work…and if it’s done as soon as possible.” GUPTA replies to CC-1 with a screenshot of the CS requesting “100 k.” CC-I responded “Ok,” and then added that while an advance payment was not possible, “the whole money will be paid with in [sic] 24 hours after the work is done.”

June 1, 2023: CC-1 sends Gupta the street address for the Victim’s home in New York City, which CC-1 describes to Gupta as “the locality of [the Victim’s] House.”

June 2, 2023: CC-1 messages Gupta, asking for “any update” on the murder plot, stating “[i]t’s important and less time.” Gupta responds that he expected to have an update the following day.

June 3, 2023: Gupta urges CS over an audio call to have his associates carry out the murder soon, stating: “finish him brother, finish him, don’t take too much time … push these guys, push these guys …, finish the job.”

June 3, 2023: Gupta informs CC-1 that he has “spoke[n] with the NY group” and “told them they have to discharge [the Victim] as soon as possible.”

June 4, 2023: Gupta speaks with the CS by audio call, and promises the CS that “if this job is done successfully” then he will “bring the chief’ to meet the CS.

June 4, 2023: CS sends Gupta a “purported surveillance photograph” of the Victim as proof that the CS’s New York associates were monitoring the Victim and that the Victim would be killed as soon as they received an advance payment of $25,000.

June 5, 2023: Gupta sends the surveillance photo and a screenshot of the CS’s messages to CC-1. Gupta asks CC-1 to “check with [his] NY dealer if he can arrange the 25k [payment] there.”

June 6, 2023: Gupta messages the CS asking to be put directly in touch with the CS’s New York associates, who will receive the advance payment and carry out the murder. The CS introduces Gupta through electronic messages to the UC, who was purporting to be the CS’s associate in New York.

June 6, 2023: On an audio call, Gupta instructs the CS that “we need to calm down everything 10 days” because of engagements between high-level government officials of Indian and the US scheduled to occur over the ensuing weeks. Gupta explains that given the Victim’s public profile as an activist, there could be protests in the wake of his death and could lead to geopolitical fallout if the Victim were assassinated on US soil during those planned meetings.

June 8, 2023: CC-1 sends Gupta the name of an associate (Individual-1) and the associate’s phone number with an Indian country code.

June 9, 2023: CC-1 messages Gupta, “Bhai ji I guess you are in communication with [Individual-1], he said payment will be made today positively.. Let’s activate the team and get it done this weekend”. Gupta responds in the affirmative. Two hours later, Gupta informs the UC by text message and voice note that another associate (“Individual-2”) would call Gupta to arrange the delivery by noon that day of the “parcel,” meaning the advance cash payment for the murder.

June 9, 2023: Individual-2 meets with the UC in Manhattan to make the Advance Payment. During the meeting, which takes place in the UC’s vehicle, the UC calls Gupta and facilitates a video call between Gupta and Individual-2, during which Gupta and Individual-2 discuss, among other things, Gupta’s location in India. Individual-2 hands $15,000 in cash to the UC.

June 9, 2023: Gupta informs the CS and the UC that after the murder of the Victim, he and other co-conspirators would provide the CS and the UC with additional victims to kill. The murder of the Victim would change the UC’s life, Gupta says, because “we will give more bigger job more, more job every month, every month 2-3 job.”

June 11, 2023: CC-I messages Gupta: “It looks promising.. but we have today only.. if it doesn’t happen today it will be done after [June] 24,” i.e., after the engagements between the Indian and US governments are completed.

June 12: 2023: Gupta indicates that his co-conspirators who are directing the assassination plot from India have extensive resources and were closely monitoring the progress. UC receives a video call from Gupta, who appeared to be in a conference room. Gupta shows “three other men in the room who were dressed in business attire, sitting around a conference table”. Gupta tells the UC “we are all counting on you.”

June 12, 2023: On a call with the CS, Gupta states that there was a “big target” in Canada.

June 14, 2023: Gupta messages the CS that “we will be needing one good team in Canada also, [t]omorrow I will share you the details.”

June 15, 2023: Gupta advises the CS by phone that he was still “waiting [for] the details” about the Canadian target.

June 16, 2023: Gupta tells the CS “we are doing their job, brother. We are doing their New York [and] Canada [job],” referring to the individuals directing the plots from India.

June 18, 2023: Masked gunmen shoot and kill Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an associate of the Victim and another leader of the Khalistan movement, outside a gurudwara in Vancouver, Canada. Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, was accused of being a pro-Khalistan terrorist by the Indian government.
Later that evening, CC-1 sends Gupta a video clip showing Nijjar’s bloody body slumped in his vehicle. Gupta replies that he wished he had personally conducted the killing and asks CC-1 for permission to “go to the field.” CC-1 responds that “secrecy [is] important,” and “[i]t’s better you do not get involved in action.” One hour later, CC-1 sends Gupta the street address of the Victim’s residence in New York City.

June 18, 2023: Gupta forwards the video clip showing Nijjar’s bloody body to the CS and the UC minutes after receiving it from CC-1.

June 19, 2023: Gupta speaks with the UC by audio call and says Nijjar “was also the target” but that Nijjar was “#4, #3” on the list, and “not to worry [because] we have so many targets, we have so many targets. But the good news is this, the good news is this: now no need to wait.” Gupta tells CS that Nijjar was the target that he had previously mentioned as the potential Canadian “job” stating: “This is the guy, I send you the video…. We didn’t give to [the UC] this job, so some other guy did this job … in Canada.”

June 19, 2023: Gupta changes his prior instruction to delay killing the Victim until after the scheduled engagements between high-level US and Indian government officials. He tells the CS that the UC should kill the Victim as soon as possible, informing the CS that “we got the go-ahead to go anytime, even today, tomorrow- as early as possible. [The UC] has to finish this job, brother.”

Gupta tells the CS to expect the Victim to be more careful in the wake of the Nijjar murder. “He will be more cautious, because in Canada, his colleague is down. His colleague is down. I sent you the video. So he will be more cautious, so we should not give them the chance, any chance.” He adds: “If he is not alone, [if] there are two guys with him in the meeting or something… put everyone down, put everyone down.”

June 20, 2023: CC-1 sends GUPTA a news article about the Victim and adds: “It’s [a] priority now.” Gupta speaks to the CS by audio call and directed the CS to “find the opportunity” to kill the Victim and to “do it quickly.” Gupta says that before the “29th [of June] we have to finish four jobs,” i.e., the Victim and, after that, “three in Canada.”

June 25, 2023: The UC sends Gupta a series of photographs of the vicinity of the Victim’s residence and neighbourhood. Gupta, in turn, sends them to CC-1.

June 26, 2023: CC-1 replies to Gupta: “Excellent … [t]hey are proving that they are quite serious now.” CC-1 added that “[t]he coming 24 hours will be crucial,” that the Victim “will definitely come to either home or office,” and that Gupta should tell the UC “to be ready for both the locations.” Gupta relays CC-1’s instruction, directing the UC to “keep eyes at his house, his office and the cafe he used to visit.”

June 29, 2023: Gupta messages the UC that “[w]e have the Intel that the [Victim] … has arrived back to his home” and “[t]oday he should come out definitely.” Gupta instructs the UC to carry out the murder, stating: “[t]ry to get this done if you have the visuals and if you are sure.”

June 30, 2023: Gupta travels from India to the Czech Republic, where he is arrested at the request of the United States in connection with his participation in the plot to assassinate the Victim.

Here is a timeline of events from August to November, complied from various news/media sources by an online news portal (The Wire):

August 2023: According to the Washington Post, US national security advisor Jake Sullivan first brought up the “concerns” with Indian counterpart Ajit Doval in a meeting in a third country in early August. Both Sullivan and Doval had taken part in a conference to find a peaceful solution to the Ukraine war in Jeddah on August 6.

The Post also reported that a week later, CIA chief William Burns travels to New Delhi to speak with Ravi Sinha head of India’s external intelligence agency, RAW.

Canadian media reported that Canada’s national security advisor Jody Thomas had travelled to India in August and September in connection with the Nijjar killing.

September 8-10, 2023: US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raise the matter during their meetings with Modi on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in New Delhi.

September 19, 2023: Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau says on the floor of the House of Commons that there were “credible allegations” of the Indian government’s involvement in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. India terms the allegations as “absurd” and “motivated”. Both countries expel a diplomat each. White House NSC spokesperson says in first reaction that the US is “deeply concerned” with Canada’s accusations, stating that it was critical that the investigation proceed and the perpetrators are brought to justice.

September 21, 2023: India temporarily suspends visa operations with Canada for an indefinite period due to alleged ‘security threats’ against diplomatic staff and also seeks “parity” in diplomatic representation in each other’s countries. Canada’s CBC reported that Ottawa had both “human and signals intelligence” to prove the allegations of involvement of Indian government officials.

September 23, 2023: US ambassador to Canada David Cohen tells CTV that “shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners” informed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s public allegation of a potential link between the Indian government and Nijjar’s murder.

September 28, 2023: While there was no mention in the official readout in the meeting between Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and US secretary of state Antony Blinken in Washington, the latter urged India to cooperate with Canada’s investigation into Nijjar’s killing.

October 2023: According to the Washington Post, US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines visits India to discuss the thwarted plot. He shares information about the plot with the Indian government to aid its probe.

November 10, 2023: US secretary of state Antony Blinken says he wants India to work with Canada on its investigation into the murder of Nijjar, discussing the matter with S. Jaishankar during a 2+2 meeting in New Delhi.

November 22, 2023: Financial Times reports that the US “thwarted a conspiracy to assassinate a Sikh separatist on American soil and issued a warning to India’s government over concerns it was involved in the plot”. It also reports that a sealed indictment was filed in June. White House confirms that it was “treating this issue with utmost seriousness, and it has been raised by the U.S. Government with the Indian Government, including at the senior-most levels”.

November 29, 2023: India’s Ministry of External Affairs reveals for the first time that a “high-level” enquiry committee was already set up on November 18. A few hours later, The Washington Post publishes a report that a fresh, detailed indictment was being filed and mentioned details of US officials’ interactions on the case with their counterparts. The Justice Department announces that it has filed ‘murder-for-hire’ charges against Indian national Nikhil Gupta, who was allegedly recruited by an Indian government official to kill the ‘victim’.

To Get Sikh Siyasat News Alerts via WhatsApp:

(1) Save Our WhatsApp Number 0091-855-606-7689 to your phone contacts; and
(2) Send us Your Name via WhatsApp. Click Here to Send WhatsApp Message Now.

Sikh Siyasat is on Telegram Now. Subscribe to our Telegram Channel

Related Topics: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply