The United States designated a wide-spread sanctions-evasion network that works for the benefit of Hizballah financier Nazem Said Ahmad, under its counterterrorism sanctions authority. Ahmad was himself designated by the United States in late 2019 for providing material support to Hizballah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
On April 18, the United States Department of State and the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 52 individuals and entities for facilitating the payment, shipment, and delivery of cash, diamonds, precious gems, art, and luxury goods for the benefit of Nazem Said Ahmad, a Lebanese art collector and diamond dealer.
Nazem Said Ahmad leads a global network of family members, associates, and companies that exploits weaknesses in the regulation of diamond, precious gem and art markets to acquire luxury goods. The network utilizes both legal and illegal means to induce participants into falsely engineering certificates, thus allowing Ahmad to manipulate diamond prices and taxes, and to purchase or consign high-priced luxury goods and artwork from auction houses and galleries worldwide. The network undervalues invoices for such imported luxury items through seaports, and subsequently moves assets into Lebanon without paying the applicable taxes and duties.
Key sanctioned individuals include Firas Ahmad, Nazem Said Ahmad’s son, who handles many of his father’s business affairs in South Africa; Nazem Said Ahmad’s daughter, Hind Ahmad, who has brokered deals on behalf of her father, and helped to create an alias to help him evade sanctions and purchase artwork from U.S. companies; Rami Baker, his brother-in-law, who served as a proxy for Nazem Said Ahmad in many companies in Lebanon and Angola; and his wife, Rima Baker, who handled the shipping and logistics of importing millions of dollars of art from the United States and foreign art galleries into Beirut, and helped him circumvent U.S. sanctions.
“The individuals involved in this network used shell companies and fraudulent schemes to disguise Nazem Said Ahmad’s role in financial transactions,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “Luxury good market participants 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.”