Nikhil Gupta extradited by Czech Republic to US on June 14: Czech spokesperson | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Nikhil Gupta extradited by Czech Republic to US on June 14: Czech spokesperson

Jun 17, 2024 01:00 PM IST

Czech authorities arrested and detained Gupta on June 30 last year, and Indian officials were given consular access to him on several occasions

Nikhil Gupta, the Indian national whom American authorities have accused of involvement in the “murder-for-hire” plot against Khalistani leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, was extradited by the Czech Republic to the US on June 14 following the completion of legal formalities.

According to US federal prosecutors, Nikhil Gupta was on a mission to kill Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. (Reuters file photo)
According to US federal prosecutors, Nikhil Gupta was on a mission to kill Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. (Reuters file photo)

Gupta, 52, was named in an indictment filed by US prosecutors in a federal court in Manhattan last November as the person who allegedly worked with an unnamed Indian government to plot the assassination of Pannun, already declared a terrorist by India.

Czech authorities arrested and detained Gupta on June 30 last year, and Indian officials were given consular access to him on several occasions.

“The extradition was carried out on Friday, June 14, 2024, at Prague-Ruzyně Airport,” said Vladimir Repka, the spokesperson for the Czech justice ministry. This followed the Czech justice minister authorising Gupta’s extradition by a decision dated June 3.

Repka’s comments came hours after The Washington Post reported early on Monday that Gupta had been extradited to the US ahead of an expected federal court appearance. The Post reported Gupta arrived in New York over the weekend. Extradited defendants must appear in court within a day of their arrival in the US, the report said.

Also Read:Pannun case: Czech constitutional court says Indian suspect can be extradited to US

News of Gupta’s extradition broke hours before US National Security Adviser (NSA) Jake Sullivan arrived in India on a two-day visit at the invitation of his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval. While the focus of Sullivan’s visit is a long-pending review of the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), the murder-for-hire case is expected to figure in the discussions, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

According to the US Federal Bureau of Prisons’ official website listing details of inmates, Gupta is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn. The MDC’s website states that all visiting at this facility “has been suspended until further notice”.

The Czech justice minister signed off the extradition after the “final and binding decision” of the Municipal Court in Prague dated November 23, 2023, in conjunction with the ruling of the High Court in Prague dated January 8, 2024, regarding the “admissibility of the extradition of Nikhil Gupta for criminal prosecution to the United States of America”, Repka said.

“The extradition to the USA was authorised for criminal prosecution on suspicion of committing the crime of conspiracy to commit a murder for hire with the intent to cause death, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, § 1958(a), and the crime of murder for hire with the intent to cause death, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, § 1958(a),” he said.

The US indictment alleged the Indian government employee, who was a field operative responsible for intelligence and identified only as “CC-1”, had ordered the assassination of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) leader Pannun in New York. The SFJ has been outlawed by India.

The indictment further alleged that Gupta, acting on the instructions of the Indian official, contacted a person he believed to be a criminal associate for help in hiring a hitman to murder Pannun. This person was in reality a confidential source working with US law enforcement.

The source introduced Gupta to a purported hitman, who was actually an undercover US law enforcement officer.

The unnamed Indian official was subsequently identified by the media as Vikram Yadav, an officer of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) seconded to the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Yadav has been moved out of the external intelligence agency and several other mid-ranking officials have been reshuffled within the agency, according to people familiar with the matter.

Gupta’s lawyers have contended he is a law-abiding businessman caught up in an escalating geopolitical “crossfire” between the US and the Indian government.

India has set up a high-level inquiry committee to look into inputs provided by the US regarding the alleged plot against Pannun. External affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal recently said the probe by this body is still underway.

“There is an ongoing investigation of the high-level committee set up by the government of India to look into the security concerns shared by the US government on networks of organised criminals, terrorists and others,” he said.

The alleged plot against Pannun has emerged as an irritant in an otherwise robust India-US relationship that encompasses collaboration on critical and emerging technologies, joint development of military hardware and close cooperation on defence and security issues.

The US has pressed India to prosecute those involved in the plot, and this was a message conveyed to Indian officials by Donald Lu, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, when he visited New Delhi in January.

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