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Nikhil Gupta, suspect in plot to kill Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, extradited to US from Czech Republic

Gupta's US-based lawyer, attorney Jeffrey Chabrowe, had no immediate comment. There was also no immediate comment from Czech authorities.
Last Updated : 17 June 2024, 01:07 IST

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New Delhi: An Indian arrested in Prague for allegedly plotting an assassination attempt on a Khalistani Sikh extremist in New York has been extradited from the Czech Republic to the United States.

Nikhil Gupta, who was arrested almost a year ago, was shifted from Prague Pankrác Remand Prison in the capital of the Czech Republic to the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn in the United States last Saturday. Gupta was accused by US agencies, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), of hiring a hitman to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a leader of the Khalistani Sikh organisation, Sikhs for Justice, in New York at the behest of an intelligence officer of the Government of India.

The allegation of the FBI and the DEA about the role of a Government of India official in the plot to kill Pannun, a citizen of the US, in New York has emerged as an irritant in the relations between New Delhi and Washington DC over the past few months.

The extradition of Nikhil Gupta from the Czech Republic to the US took place just a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi and American President Joe Biden had a brief pull-aside chat on the sideline of the outreach events the G7 leaders held with their counterparts from other countries during the bloc’s 50th summit at Apulia in Italy on Friday. It also took place just before Modi’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, played host to his US counterpart Jake Sullivan in New Delhi on Monday.

Just days before meeting Doval and calling on Modi, Sullivan had told journalists that the Biden Administration would continue to raise with New Delhi, including at very senior levels, the issue of the role of the Government of India official in the plot to kill a US citizen in New York.

Gupta had been arrested by a law enforcement agency in the Czech Republic on June 30 following an extradition request by the US. A few weeks later, the US had formally requested the Czech Republic to extradite him. The Municipal Court in Prague had then ruled in favour of his extradition. Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blažek on June 6 approved his extradition after he exhausted all legal options.

The 52-year-old Indian was extradited to the US to face criminal prosecution on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire with intent to cause death, Blažek wrote on X on Monday.

Gupta’s family had moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Government of India to intervene in the extradition proceedings in the court in the Czech Republic to safeguard his right to a fair and transparent trial.

The US prosecutors on November 29 alleged that Gupta had been an associate of an official of an agency of the Government of India and the official had engaged him to hire a hitman to assassinate Pannun, the general counsel of the secessionist organization Sikhs for Justice.

The allegation by Washington DC against New Delhi followed a similar claim by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in Ottawa about the role of India in the June 18 killing of another Khalistani Sikh extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar at the parking lot of a gurdwara at Surrey in the British Columbia province of Canada. Though New Delhi dismissed the allegation, the Biden Administration nudged the Government of India to cooperate in the probe launched by the agencies of the Government of Canada in connection with the murder. It was also revealed that the US had provided intelligence inputs to help Canada accuse India of the killing of Nijjar.

Contrary to its reaction to the accusations by Ottawa, New Delhi was quick to launch a probe in the wake of the allegation by Washington DC.

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Published 17 June 2024, 01:07 IST

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