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Hezbollah financier illegally shipped art, diamonds from U.S. -prosecutors

By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) -U.S. prosecutors on Tuesday charged an alleged financier of Lebanon’s Hezbollah with evading U.S. sanctions imposed on him by exporting hundreds of millions of dollars worth of diamonds and artwork.

The U.S. Treasury Department in 2019 sanctioned Nazem Ahmad for allegedly providing material support to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which Washington considers a terrorist organization. The move was intended to cut off access for Ahmad and 11 businesses associated with him to the U.S. financial system.

But federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said Ahmad worked with three family members and five other associates to continue dealing in diamonds and artwork, while concealing Ahmad’s involvement. One of the alleged co-conspirators, Sundar Nagarajan, was arrested on Tuesday in England.

Ahmad remains at large.

The investigation “speaks to the unwavering commitment of the U.S. and U.K. governments to prevent art and diamond markets from becoming a haven of illicit financial activity,” said Tae Johnson, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose investigative arm probes sanctions violations

Prosecutors said Ahmad in 2021 directly negotiated the sale of artwork with a New York-based artist, whom he instructed not to mention his name. Six paintings by the artist valued at nearly $200,000 were then exported to a Lebanese company used by Ahmad, prosecutors said.

In total, entities tied to Ahmad engaged in more than $440 million in financial transactions in violation of sanctions, including importing $207 million of goods to the United States and exporting $234 million worth of mostly diamonds and artwork, prosecutors said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Britain also sanctioned Ahmad over suspicions he was financing Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran. The British government said Ahmad has an extensive art collection in the UK and does business with several UK-based artists, galleries and auction houses.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New Yorkl; Additional reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Disclaimer: This report is auto generated from the Reuters news service. ThePrint holds no responsibilty for its content.

Source: The Print

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