UK, US sanction art dealer with suspected ties to Hezbollah
LONDON (AP) — A diamond and art dealer was sanctioned Tuesday by the U.K. and U.S. governments for allegedly funding Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group.
The U.K. Treasury said it froze Nazem Ahmad’s assets in the U.K. because he financed the Iranian-backed Shiite militant organization that has been designated an international terrorist group. Under the sanctions, no one in the U.K. or U.S. will be able to do business with Ahmad or his businesses.
“The firm action we have taken today will clamp down on those who are funding international terrorism,” said Joanna Penn, U.K. treasury minister. She said the move would strengthen the U.K.'s economic and national security.
Ahmad was similarly sanctioned in 2019 by the U.S. Treasury, which alleged he was a “prominent Lebanon-based money launderer and significant Hezbollah financier.” It also said he was involved in smuggling “blood diamonds,” which are mined in conflict zones and sold to finance violence.
The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday afternoon sanctioned a network of 52 individuals and entities from Lebanon to South Africa to the United Kingdom to Hong Kong for their associations with Ahmad.
The sanctioned group is accused of running an international money laundering and sanctions evasion operation, facilitating the payment and delivery of jewelry, art and luxury goods for the benefit of Ahmad, according to Treasury.
Included in the sanctions announcement are Ahmad’s children, wife, extended family members, business associates, real estate firms and several diamond companies based in South Africa, Belgium and Dubai, which acted as brokers for jewelry and art sales.
U.S. Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said individuals involved in the luxury goods trade “should be attentive to these potential tactics and schemes, which allow terrorist financiers, money launderers, and sanctions evaders to launder illicit proceeds through the purchase and consignment of luxury goods.”
Rewards for Justice — the U.S. State Department’s national security rewards program — is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information related to Ahmad.
A Beirut art gallery the U.K. government identified as belonging to Ahmad did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.