Policies & Issues

Diamond Companies Sanctioned, Dealer Charged With Money Laundering

Policies & IssuesApr 21, 2023

Diamond Companies Sanctioned, Dealer Charged With Money Laundering

Officials allege a “complex network” of entities helped Nazem Said Ahmad deal in diamonds and artwork in the U.S. despite being sanctioned.

2023_Diamonds stock.png
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions against 52 individuals and companies earlier this week for helping alleged Hezbollah financier Nazem Said Ahmad deal in diamonds and artwork in the United States despite being under sanction. The sanctioned firms include a number of diamond companies, while Ahmad and eight associates also have been indicted for money laundering and evading U.S. sanctions.
Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has announced a new round of sanctions that impact the diamond industry, this time tied to a man the U.S. has deemed a “global terrorist” who’s been under sanction for nearly four years.

Announced Tuesday, the sanctions encompass 52 individuals and companies OFAC said helped Nazem Said Ahmad evade U.S. sanctions and launder money in order to fund Hezbollah and his “luxurious lifestyle.”

Lebanon-based Hezbollah, also spelled Hizballah, is an Iran-backed political party and militant group believed to be responsible for numerous terrorist attacks.

It has been designated by the U.S. as a Foreign Terrorist Organization since 1997, and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist since October 2001.

Ahmad, a diamond and art dealer with both Lebanese and Belgian citizenship, has been on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals list since December 2019 for allegedly laundering money and evading taxes.

The 52 entities designated in this latest round of sanctions—which OFAC described as a “complex network” of Ahmad’s family members, business associates and companies spread across eight countries—used shell companies and fraudulent schemes to disguise the sanctioned Ahmad’s role in financial transactions involving diamonds and works of art, which he frequently shares on his Instagram page.

OFAC said Ahmad’s network took advantage of the “permissive nature” of the global diamond, gemstone, and art markets to buy and move around luxury goods.

It also mentioned the Kimberley Process specifically, noting that Ahmad’s network allegedly coerced both “witting and unwitting” participants into creating fake KP certificates to manipulate diamond prices and taxes and make their businesses look legitimate.

The full list of sanctioned companies and individuals is available on the OFAC website and includes diamond companies based in South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Antwerp, and Dubai.

The sanctions bar people and companies in the U.S. from doing business with any of the named entities as well as any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons.

In an alert sent to members Thursday afternoon, Jewelers Vigilance Committee CEO and General Counsel Tiffany Stevens and Deputy General Counsel Sara Yood recommended U.S. businesses with automated OFAC software run their customer and supplier lists through their software program to ensure they’re not doing business with any sanctioned entities.

For companies doing manual checks, Stevens and Yood said they should cross-check the OFAC list against their lists of suppliers and customers.

Businesses without compliant anti-money laundering (AML) programs can find more information about implementing one on the JVC website

 Related stories will be right here … 

The Treasury Department announced the sanctions the same day federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, unsealed an indictment charging Ahmad and eight others with orchestrating a “long-standing” scheme to evade U.S. sanctions, defraud the U.S. and foreign governments, and launder money.

According to the 50-plus-page indictment, filed under seal March 29, after the U.S. sanctioned Ahmad in December 2019, entities controlled by him or operating for his benefit made more than $400 million in financial transactions, importing $207 million worth of goods into the U.S. and exporting more than $234 million, all the while hiding the fact that Ahmad was involved.

Those imports and exports consisted primarily of diamonds and artwork, the indictment states.

For diamonds specifically, the indictment noted the defendants worked together to utilize grading services from a U.S.-based diamond grading company, identified in court documents only as “Diamond Grading Company-1” with a facility in New York.

The services were secured through multiple entities operating for Ahmad’s benefit and were valuable to all parties because the “cut, color and clarity grades assigned by the company, as well as the certification of the stone’s carat weight, affected the price at which a diamond could be sold.”   

All told, the defendants and other conspirators submitted 482 diamonds to the lab after Ahmad was sanctioned in December 2019, totaling about 1,546 carats with a value of more than $91 million, the indictment states.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is handling the prosecution, as goods were shipped in and out of New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens.

As of Tuesday, the office said one person had been arrested in connection with the scheme—The New York Times reported it was Ahmad’s accountant, who was arrested in Britain—while the others, including Ahmad, reside outside the U.S. and remain at large.

The Latest

Pantone color of the year 2024
TrendsDec 08, 2023
Pantone’s Color of the Year Is Warm and Fuzzy

The peachy hue also marks the program’s 25th anniversary.

Mary Tyler Moore and Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. Bone Cuffs
AuctionsDec 08, 2023
Sotheby’s Sold All Mary Tyler Moore’s Jewelry

The 21 pieces up for auction, including Tiffany & Co. jewels and a Cartier watch, garnered more than $430,000 across two sales.

Inesa Kovalova’s Links pin
CollectionsDec 08, 2023
Piece of the Week: A ‘Strong & Precious’ Brooch

Centered on a sunny heliodor, the “Links” pin was designed by Ukrainian jewelry artist Inesa Kovalova.

De Beers | Diamonds Falling
Brought to you by
The Most Important “C” in Diamonds: Confidence!

Without the ability to instill confidence within the industry and directly to the consumer, a diamond holds very little value.

Lashbrook ring
MajorsDec 07, 2023
Lashbrook Sues Manly Bands for Allegedly Copying Designs

The wedding band company is also accusing its former customer of removing watermarks from Lashbrook images for its own use.

Weekly QuizDec 07, 2023
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge with this short test.
Take the Quiz
24 Karat Club of New York new members
MajorsDec 07, 2023
24 Karat Club of New York Welcomes New Members

The organization has elected 12 new additions.

National Jeweler columnist Sherry Smith
ColumnistsDec 06, 2023
On Data: How Are Independents Doing So Far This Holiday Season?

Sherry Smith breaks down the numbers on jewelry sales in November and reveals the category that “emerged as a standout.”

Platinum  Guild International Diamond Rings
Brought to you by
If It’s Custom, Make It Platinum

With holiday proposals right around the corner, encourage your customers to go for platinum when making the big purchase.

133 carat yellow diamond
AuctionsDec 06, 2023
A Yellow Diamond, Hollywood Jewels Stand Out at Sotheby’s

Additional lots will be offered in the Fine Jewels online sale through Dec. 7.

GIA logo
GradingDec 06, 2023
GIA Debuts Revamped Graduate Jeweler Program

By mixing creative and practical skills, the new course hopes to fill the industry’s bench jeweler gap.

A 1930s gem-set and enamel ‘Maltese cross’ cuff attributed to Verdura for Chanel (left) and a loose cushion-cut Burmese sapphire weighing 11.87 carats (right) were the top lots in Bonhams New York Jewels auction this week.
AuctionsDec 06, 2023
Verdura Cuff, Burmese Sapphire Shine at Bonhams

Several other colored gemstones joined the pieces in the top 10 list.

Neil Lane lab-grown diamond engagement ring
FinancialsDec 05, 2023
Signet Jewelers’ Q3 Sales Down 12%

The retailer is still expecting a strong holiday season with improving demand for natural diamonds.

Memorial for slain jeweler Peter Damian Arguello in Wheat Ridge, Colorado
CrimeDec 05, 2023
Police Continue to Investigate Murder of Colorado Jeweler

Peter Damian Arguello, the owner of Peter Damian Fine Jewelry & Antiques, was shot and killed in an apparent robbery last week.

Tanishq store
MajorsDec 05, 2023
Tanishq Continues U.S. Expansion With 2 New Stores

The Indian jewelry giant has opened locations in Houston and Frisco, Texas.

Grandview Klein Diamonds Namibia scholarship winners
SourcingDec 05, 2023
Grandview Klein Awards Two Scholarships in Namibia

Each student was provided with the full amount of tuition for the Namibia University of Science & Technology.

De Beers Ryan Perry and David Prager
SourcingDec 04, 2023
David Prager To Leave De Beers in 2024

Ryan Perry, who has been with De Beers since 2002, also will be leaving the company next year.

Chrono24 ChronoPulse
WatchesDec 04, 2023
Chrono24 Debuts the ‘Dow Jones’ for Luxury Watches

The watch seller’s new index tracks sales data from 14 brands, including Rolex and Patek Philippe.

David Bouffard Signet Jewelers
MajorsDec 04, 2023
David Bouffard to Leave Signet, RJC

The industry veteran will step down from both roles in April 2024.

David Webb turquoise and lapis ring
TrendsDec 04, 2023
Amanda’s Style File: Decadent December

Tanzanite, turquoise, and zircon are all options for December babies, who sometimes “get the birthday shaft,” Amanda Gizzi writes.

Lightbox x Roséate Light Wand pendants
Lab-GrownDec 01, 2023
Lightbox Teams Up With Brand Founded by Former Tiffany Exec

The lab-grown diamond brand also collaborated with the website The Future Rocks on a collection launching today.

Lila Moss Calvin Klein campaign
FinancialsDec 01, 2023
Movado Lowers Guidance Again After Q3 Sales Dip

The company said it is facing a “challenging retail environment” but is prepared for the holiday season.

Muzo emerald and argyle pink diamond necklace
CollectionsDec 01, 2023
Piece of the Week: Muzo’s Emerald and Argyle Pink Diamond Necklace

It’s the hero piece of the newest "Green Jewel" collection, a collaborative offering from the two mines.

Pink Supreme Diamond
AuctionsNov 30, 2023
This Pink Diamond Reigned Supreme in Hong Kong

The 15.48-carat fancy intense “Pink Supreme” topped Christie’s fall jewelry auction in Asia, while a Patek Philippe led the watch sale.

Claire’s CFO COO Chris Cramer
MajorsNov 30, 2023
Claire’s Hires Former Bath & Body Works Exec as CFO, COO

Chris Cramer, who also spent time at Gen Z intimates brand Parade, will take on the dual role.

133 carat yellow diamond
AuctionsNov 30, 2023
Sotheby’s To Auction 133-Carat Yellow Diamond

The stone headlining the upcoming sale could fetch up to $5 million.

Kwiat diamonds
IndependentsNov 30, 2023
Frank Adams Rolls Out Kwiat’s ‘Mine to Shine’ Program

The retail offering lets customers track their diamond’s journey.

Diamond development hub in Angola
SourcingNov 29, 2023
Largest New Diamond Mine of the Decade Coming Online in Angola

The Luele mine is expected to eventually make the country the world’s third-largest diamond producer.


This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy