Image: Belgian-Lebanese diamond trader Ahmad – image U.S. State Department – alleged Hezbollah ties
On Tuesday, the US Treasury Department blacklisted a number of companies that are allegedly associated with financing the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon.
This has caused shockwaves in the diamond industry, as a few diamond companies are among the 52 individuals and entities listed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for supplying cash, precious gems, art, and luxury goods to the group’s financier, Nazem Said Ahmad.
According to reports, these transactions involving artwork and diamond-grading services conducted through the US financial system amount to $160m.
The US Department of Justice has also filed charges against Ahmad and eight others for money laundering, conspiring to defraud the US, and violating US sanctions and customs laws.
Ahmad, a Belgian-Lebanese citizen, has been identified as a diamond smuggler and art collector who dealt in millions of dollars of goods and services in violation of global terrorism sanctions regulations.
The Treasury Department has accused Ahmad of using a global network of shell companies and fraudulent schemes involving family members, associates, and companies to facilitate payment, shipment, and delivery of luxury goods.
The network allegedly coerces participants into falsely engineering certificates to manipulate diamond prices and taxes, and to give their business the appearance of legitimacy.
Ahmad is known for owning masterpieces by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Antony Gormley, and Andy Warhol, and is designated by the US as a “global terrorist” for channelling millions of dollars to Hezbollah.
OFAC has recently blacklisted several entities and individuals accused of financing Hezbollah, a terrorist organization.
Among the blacklisted individuals are Firas Ahmad, son of Nazem Said Ahmad, who manages his father’s business affairs in South Africa, and is the director of Mega Gems (PTY) LTD and controls Thula Uzwe Trading, another South African diamond company.
Ali Osseiran, Nazem Said Ahmad’s business associate, who directs Best Diamond House DMCC and G and S Diamond FZE, both based in Dubai.
Additionally, Bassem Murad, a Belgian national, who owns, controls or directs M.S.D. based in Antwerp, MSD Capital (PTY) LTD, MSD DMCC, both based in Dubai, and MSD SPRL Diamond Trading based in South Africa, has been blacklisted.
Furthermore, the list includes Amana Diam DMCC, a Dubai-based diamond company that was used in a money laundering scheme for Rami Baker, and Helics Gemb BVBA, an Antwerp-based diamond company that acted as a broker for Amana Diam DMCC for sales of over $18 million in H1 2022 and was likely engaged in suspicious trades in diamonds.
The US Justice Department alleges that Ahmad and his co-conspirators used a web of business entities to obtain valuable artwork from US artists and art galleries and to secure US-based diamond-grading services, all while concealing Ahmad’s involvement in these activities.
The total value of artwork and diamond-grading services transacted through the US financial system was reportedly $160m.
The Justice Department alleges that they conspired to violate and evade US sanctions by obtaining grading determinations and other services from an unnamed US-based diamond grading company (Diamond Grading Company-1).