UK, US issue new sanctions over Lebanese businessman's Hezbollah support

AFP , Tuesday 18 Apr 2023

The UK government said Tuesday it had frozen the assets of a Lebanese businessman suspected of financing Hezbollah, while US authorities announced action against a network allegedly helping the man avoid sanctions.

Nazem Said Ahmad
File Photo: Nazem Said Ahmad in his Beirut apartment. (Photo courtesy of US Treasury Department)


The UK Treasury's action against Nazem Said Ahmad on national security grounds follows similar US restrictions imposed in 2019.

Washington meanwhile issued fresh sanctions on Tuesday against an international network of 52 individuals and entities operating out of Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Britain who allegedly supported Ahmad.

The US State Department in 1997 designated Hezbollah -- an Iran-backed Shia movement that is a key political player in Lebanon -- as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and in 2019 said the group had used Ahmad and his companies to launder "substantial amounts of money."

In a statement Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the latest actions are "against a global sanctions evasion network that facilitates the payment, shipment, and delivery of cash, art, and luxury goods" for the benefit of Ahmad.

Ahmad's extensive art collection is known to include works by Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.

According to a UK Treasury statement, "all assets and economic resources belonging to Ahmad in the UK have been frozen and no UK person may do business with him or any of the companies he owns or controls."

London proscribed Hezbollah's External Security Organization as a terrorist organization in 2001. The ban was extended to all of its military apparatus seven years later.

'Blood diamond' trade

Brian Nelson, the US State Department's top sanctions official, said that "the individuals involved in this network used shell companies and fraudulent schemes to disguise Nazem Said Ahmad's role in financial transactions."

Among the key facilitators identified were Ahmad's son Firas and daughter Hind, alongside other relatives and business associates.

According to the UK Treasury, Ahmad has an extensive art collection in Britain and conducts business with UK-based artists, galleries, and auction houses.

The sanctions mean he will no longer be able to trade in the UK art market and no other dealers will be able to do business with him or his companies.

In December 2019, the US Treasury described Ahmad as one of Hezbollah's "top donors, generating funds through his longstanding ties to the 'blood diamond' trade."

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