FBI Busts International Gambling & Money Laundering Ring at NYC’s Nahmad Gallery

Source: The Jewish Voice

In a raid Tuesday on the high-end Helly Nahmad art gallery inside the Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue, the FBI charged gallery owner Hillel Nahmad and at least 30 others with operating an international gambling and money laundering ring under the direction of a Russian organized crime syndicate. The illicit scheme encompassed high-stakes poker games involving Wall Street financiers, Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes, according to an indictment unsealed in the case and people familiar with the prosecution. Despite the indictment, Hillel Nahmad was not arrested.

The investigation revealed links that include a Russian man who was previously wanted in connection with a bid to rig Winter Olympic skating competitions, a Bronx plumbing business, a Brooklyn car-repair shop, banks in Cyprus and Russian oligarchs.

The Nahmad family members, who belong to the Lebanese Sephardic community and maintain art galleries in New York and London, are considered highly prominent in the art world. In recent years, they have been among some of the most consistent purchasers at high-end auctions worldwide, buying and selling millions of dollars of art.

According to Forbes magazine’s annual ranking of the world’s richest people, the family’s fortune is estimated to be worth $3 billion.

In addition to charges that he contributed financing to a multimillion-dollar gambling ring in the United States, Nahmad is accused of defrauding an unnamed individual by selling him a painting for $300,000 which was actually worth only $50,000, according to the indictment. The art mogul is also charged with wiring money totaling well over $1 million from his father’s bank account in Switzerland to a bank account in the United States to enable further funding of the gambling operation.

The charges outline activities of what prosecutors describe as two separate but interconnected criminal groups — one functioning overseas and one in the U.S.

According to the indictment, a central figure of the overseas operation is Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who is said to be a member of a Russian organized-crime gang known as the “Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization.”

“The Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization was an international organized-crime group with leadership based in New York City, Kiev and Moscow, and that operated throughout the United States,” the indictment states.

Mr. Tokhtakhounov was an “elite” Russian gangster, according to the indictment, who had great influence in the criminal underworld and offered vital assistance to the group. He was listed as one of the world’s ten most wanted fugitives in 2011.

Tokhtakhounov is charged with supervising the laundering of money generated by a giant sports-betting operation in Ukraine and the former Soviet Union that catered to Russian oligarchs. The indictment says that tens of millions of dollars were laundered from the operation through shell companies and bank accounts in Cyprus and sent to the United States.

[David Nahmad (third from left) in the company of friends at the Ferrari Celebrates Art Basel in Miami Beach circa 2011.]