One of Canada’s former top spies says that the American indictment linking an alleged assassination attempt orchestrated by an Indian government employee re-enforces the validity of allegations made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in September.
Trudeau alleged that Canada had intelligence that agents of the Indian government may have been involved in the murder of Sikh separatist activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in B.C. this summer.
“I thought the fact that the prime minister actually made such an announcement in the House suggested that they had pretty strong intelligence. So, yes, this does pretty much confirm it,” former CSIS director Ward Elcock told Global News.
U.S. murder-for-hire case linked to Nijjar’s killing
A fellow former CSIS director and Trudeau’s first national security advisor Dick Fadden shares Elcock’s assessment.
“That certainly I think vindicates anything and everything the prime minister said. I didn’t think he’d say what he did about India without it being true. But, boy, this in spades confirms what he said,” Fadden said.
The American indictment alleges that an employee of the Indian government, referred to as CC-1, hired Indian national Nikhil Gupta, age 52, to organize the assassination of a Sikh separatist activist in New York City.
More questions about investigation of Hardeep Singh Nijjar murder
Responding on Thursday, India expressed concern about one of its government officials being linked to the plot, from which it dissociated itself as being against government policy.
It’s alleged that CC-1 was also responsible for helping organize the June 18 killing of Nijjar outside a Sikh temple in Surrey B.C. and was in contact with Gupta about the murder.
On June 18, hours after Nijjar’s murder, it’s alleged in the indictment that CC-1 sent Gupta a video clip showing Nijjar’s body slumped in his vehicle. The next day, Gupta allegedly told the undercover officer that Nijjar “was also the target” and “we have many targets.”
The RCMP have not made any arrests in Nijjar’s murder and suspects have not been named.
RCMP, police ‘very engaged’ in keeping Sikh community safe following allegations of U.S. murder plot by Indian government
In the American case, an undercover officer posed as an apparent assassin for hire and gathered evidence against Gupta and CC-1.
For Elcock, this suggests that the United States had intelligence of a potential plot prior to Gupta contacting a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) confidential source for help sourcing an assassin, as outlined in the indictment.
“You don’t sort of have potential assassins on standby to run a scam on somebody,” Elcock said.
“That suggests that there was pretty good intelligence that the Americans had earlier on that this was about to happen.”
Nijjar was warned about potential threats to his life prior to his death. One of his close associates, Gurmeet Singh Toor, told previously Global News that he also was warned by the RCMP of potential threats to his life on August 24.
Toor said through an interpreter that he is one of three people in the Sikh community to receive such warnings.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar: Associate of slain Sikh leader says RCMP also warned of threat to his life
The World Sikh Organization president Danish Singh issued a statement Wednesday calling on immediate action from Canadian authorities.
“It is clear that this network has ties to the Nijjar case. We call on Canadian authorities and law enforcement to bring those responsible for Nijjar’s assassination to justice as soon as possible and to clearly identify those involved in the plot in India and elsewhere,” Singh said.
“We have known about Indian intelligence networks targeting Sikhs in Canada for decades. It’s time for Canadian authorities to expose those involved in these networks and to hold them accountable. Enough is enough.”
Prior to the unsealing of the American indictment against Gupta, White House officials confirmed that American authorities thwarted an assassination plot against New York based American Canadian Sikh separatist activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.
US thwarted alleged assassination plot against Sikh separatist: report
Fadden says that while Nijjar was warned of a threat prior to his death, he believes that there likely was not enough intelligence at that point to prevent the Sikh leader’s murder.
“To just say there’s a threat, as important as that is, if you don’t give some sense of the time frame and the location. There’s very little anybody can do. And I think they did lack actionable intelligence,” Fadden said. “So, I think it’s it really is difficult to compare the two.”
The RCMP declined comment on where things stand in the Nijjar investigation, as it is still ongoing.
At the outset, they said they were seeking two masked, heavier-set men. Nijjar was ambushed while sitting in a truck in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara. RCMP later said they were seeking a 2008 silver Toyota Camry parked near the scene, believed to be a getaway vehicle.
While the investigation remains open, Elcock is not optimistic about it.
“There probably is very little evidence that the that that will be found. My suspicion is that the people who carried out the attack are probably long gone wherever they came from,” he said. “So, the likelihood of an ultimate prosecution seems pretty unlikely at this point. Not impossible, but pretty unlikely.”
On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly called on India to cooperate with Canada in this investigation, like that country says they are doing with U.S. officials.
Instead, Trudeau’s public announcement of the allegations triggered a diplomatic row between the two nations.
While Elcock wouldn’t weigh into the politics of Trudeau’s decision to go public with the allegations, he anticipates India will make good on their word to work with the Americans.
“One suspects that what [India] will ultimately probably do is have an investigation, find a few malcontents, and then declare victory and move on or try and move on,” he said.
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