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Scion of billionaire art dealer 'organized $50million high-stakes poker ring attended by celebrities, sports stars with the help of Russian mobsters'

Mail Online, 16 April 2013  

The scion of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the art world is accused of working with Russian mobsters to organize a high-stakes poker ring that was frequented by sports stars, celebrities and other mega-rich clients. Federal agents today raided Helly Nahmad's exclusive gallery in the Carlyle Hotel on New York's posh Madison Avenue. He was expected to turn himself in to authorities in Los Angeles. Nahmad is one of 34 people indicted in a sweeping multi-year federal investigation that stretched from New York to Los Angeles, Miami, Kiev, Ukraine, and Cyprus. Nahmad, 34, is accused of operating one of two organized gambling rings that specialized in high-stakes poker games hosted at various locations around New York as well as sports betting. Nahmad is the son of David Nahmad, who is perhaps the most high-profile art dealer and collector in the world, with a fortune estimated at $3billion The Helly Nahmad Gallery, which is owned by Helly Naham, carries works by the likes of Wassily Kandinsky and Francis Bacon. The FBI says agents, alongside investigators from the IRS, were searching for ill-gotten profits from the illegal gambling activities. Nahmad is also accused of wire fraud for allegedly selling a $50,000 painting for $300,000. Also indicted is the infamous Russian crime boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, nicknamed 'the Little Taiwanese.' Mr Tokhtakhounov is already a fugitive from justice. He was indicted for rigging the figure skating competition at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He is a a 'vory v zakone' or 'Vor' - translated as 'thief-in-law' - the highest rank in Russian organized crime networks. Authorities believe he provided protection and backing for the gambling rings. He is believed to be hiding out in Russia. Tokhtakhounovand and Nahmad are accused of running separate gambling and money laundering rings that worked together. The FBI says Tokhtakhounovand received $10million payment for his services. Nahmad's operation allegedly brought in $50million since 2006. Authorities say he made wire transfers from his Swiss bank accounts to help fund the operation. His clients include high-profile businessmen, celebrities and sports stars. The FBI is not releasing the names of gamblers. Debts from the gambling operations ran into hundreds of thousands of dollars. One plumber from the Bronx, New York, was threatened by the alleged mobsters after he ran up a $ 2 million debt in 2010.


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 April 2013