TEL AVIV: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called US Justice Department’s indictment of an Indian national for his alleged involvement in a foiled plot to assassinate Gurpatwant Pannun, a US-based leader of the Sikh Separatist Movement, an ongoing legal matter. He said the Indian government’s decision to investigate the matter was “good and appropriate” and added that the US looked forward to seeing the results.
Speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv, Blinken said that the US government has raised the matter directly with the Indian government in the past weeks.
Asked about the US charging an Indian national in murder for hire scheme targeting a Sikh separatist, Blinken said, “Concerning India, first, this is an ongoing legal matter. So you’ll understand I can’t comment on it in detail. I can say that this is something we take very seriously. A number of us have raised this directly with the Indian Government in past weeks. The government announced today that it was conducting an investigation, and that’s good and appropriate, and we look forward to seeing the results.”
His statement comes after US Justice Department unsealed an indictment against an Indian national for his alleged involvement in a foiled plot to assassinate a US-based leader of the Sikh Separatist Movement and a citizen in New York.
The US Justice Department has claimed that an Indian government employee (named CC-1), who was not identified in the indictment filed in a federal court in Manhattan, recruited an Indian national named Nikhil Gupta to hire a hitman to carry out the assassination, which was foiled by US authorities, according to prosecutors.
Gupta is currently in custody and has been charged with murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Czech authorities had arrested and detained Gupta on June 30, pursuant to the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and the Czech Republic.
In its indictment the US Justice Department has claimed that, earlier this year, an Indian government employee working together with others, including Gupta, directed a plot to assassinate on a political activist who is a U.S. citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City.
It is claimed that Gupta, is an associate of CC-1, and has described his involvement in international narcotics and weapons trafficking in his communications with CC-1. The indictment claims CC -1 directed the assassination plot from India.
At CC-1’s direction, Gupta contacted an individual whom he believed to be a criminal associate, but who was in fact a confidential source working with the DEA. The source it is alleged introduced Gupta to a purported hitman, who was a DEA undercover officer. The purported hitman was offered USD 100,000 to murder the Separatist leader, the Justice Department claims.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The unsealing of the indictment follows recent sharing of information by the US on a nexus between organised criminals, gun runners and terrorists. India has since formed a high-level inquiry committee to address the security concerns highlighted by the US government.
Reacting to the US Justice Department’s indictment, the Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said that a case filed against an individual in a US court and allegedly linking him to an Indian official is a “matter of concern” and is contrary to government policy.
“We cannot share any further information on such security matters. As regards the case against an individual that has been filed in a US court allegedly linking him to an Indian official, this is a matter of concern. We have said and let me reiterate that this is contrary to government policy” the MEA spokesperson said.
“The nexus between organised crime, trafficking and gun running and extremists at an international level is a serious issue for law enforcement agencies and organisations to consider and it is precisely for that reason that a high-level committee has been constituted and we will obviously be guided by its results” the spokesperson added. (ANI)