US federal prosecutors charge Nikhil Gupta a 52-year-old Indian man for alleged involvement in murder-for-hire conspiracy.
A senior Indian government official has been accused of orchestrating a plot to assassinate a prominent Sikh activist in the US, according to a criminal complaint filed by the US Department of Justice.
The complaint alleges that the official, who is not named, directed Nikhil Gupta a 52-year-old Indian man named to hire a hitman to kill the activist, who is also not identified, for his role in advocating for Sikh rights and independence in India.
Nikhil Gupta who is a US citizen and a resident of Nevada, was arrested on November 29, 2023, and charged with one count of conspiracy to murder a foreign official, one count of conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, and one count of conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
According to the complaint, Nikhil Gupta contacted an undercover FBI agent posing as a hitman in September 2023, and offered to pay him $150,000 to kill the activist. Nikhil Gupta allegedly told the agent that he was acting on behalf of a high-ranking Indian government official, who had authorized the assassination and would provide the funds.
Nikhil Gupta also allegedly provided the agent with a photo of the target, his home address, his vehicle information, and his daily routine. He also allegedly instructed the agent to make the killing look like a robbery or a gang-related shooting, and to avoid harming the target’s family.
The complaint further alleges that Nikhil Gupta met with the agent several times in October and November 2023, and gave him a $10,000 down payment, a firearm, and a silencer. Gupta also allegedly asked the agent to kill another person, who he claimed was a Pakistani spy, for an additional $50,000.
The FBI arrested Nikhil Gupta on November 29, 2023, after he confirmed that he wanted the agent to proceed with the killings. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.
The US Department of Justice said that the charges are merely allegations, and that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The department also said that it is working with the Indian authorities to identify and apprehend the Indian government official involved in the plot.