The well known international art dealer Helly Nahmad’s New York gallery was raided by the FBI on Tuesday morning for suspected illegal gambling and money laundering breaches . The gallery located at the Carlyle Hotel on Madison Ave was thoroughly searched and computers were removed by the federal agency. Forbes stated that it was part of a “sweep of illegal gambling rings operated by Russian organised crime.” The New York Times have also reported “Helly Nahmad has been indicted for his role operating and financing high-stakes poker games involving Wall Street financiers, Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes.”
The actions taken on 16 April were part of a wider probe into Russian organised crime in the United States. Nahmad has been named for his involvement with a Bronx plumbing company used to launder profits from suspected gambling. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York issued statements alleging that one enterprise in this scheme laundered tens of millions of dollars through Cyprus companies and bank accounts. In NY, a 32-year-old JPMorgan Chase branch manager is alleged to have been involved in transactions in order to avoid bank reporting requirements. The Cyprus’ banking system has been under scrutiny as a haven for Russian organised crime for years. Last month a $13 billion bailout of its economy by the EU and IMF devalued the currency by 40%.
It is thought that the funds were placed into real estate and hedge fund investment. Mr. Nahmad, according to the indictment, also wired money $500,000 and $850,000 from his father’s bank account in Switzerland to a bank account in America to help fund the gambling operation. The government is seeking the forfeiture of four high-end properties, including an apartment at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and two Miami estates, in connection with the case. In a separate case, Mr. Nahmad has been accused of defrauding a client by overpricing a $50k painting by selling it for an overvalued $300,000.
The roots of the Nahmad family are in Aleppo, Syria, where Sephardic Jewish banker Hillel Nahmad lived until just after the second world war. Following anti-Jewish violence in 1947, he moved to Beirut, Lebanon and when the situation there became difficult, he took his three sons, Joseph (Giuseppe), Ezra and David, to Milan in the early 1960s. As teenagers in the 1960s, they began to deal in art. Ezra and David skipped school to trade on the Italian stock market. At a Juan Gris exhibition in Rome organised by cubist dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Ezra and David bought two works – the only pieces sold. Kahnweiler befriended them, selling them works by Picasso, Braque, Gris. With the emergence of the Red Brigades terror group in the 1970s, Milan was perceived as too dangerous, and the family moved again. Joseph and Ezra headed for Monaco, and David to New York. New York’s Helly Nahmad Gallery, on Madison Avenue, is a separate company run by David’s son, who took over his father’s earlier Davlyn Gallery. David Nahmad was the 1996 Backgammon World Champion, and is known for betting large amounts of money on the game. This latest case is part of a Stateside probe into organised crime.