UK sanctions Lebanese art collector for financing Hezbollah

Using counterterrorism laws, Treasury bans trading with businessman Nazem Said Ahmad, who it says has an extensive collection in Britain and trades with galleries, auction houses

Hezbollah fighters hold the terror group's flags as they parade during a rally to mark Jerusalem Day in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, April 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Hezbollah fighters hold the terror group's flags as they parade during a rally to mark Jerusalem Day in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, April 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The UK government on Tuesday said it had imposed a full asset freeze on a Lebanese businessman suspected of financing the Hezbollah terror group.

The Treasury action against Nazem Said Ahmad on national security grounds follows similar restrictions imposed in 2019 by the United States.

“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,” a statement read.

It was the first time domestic counter-terrorism powers were being used to “curtail a suspected international terrorism financing network,” the UK Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation said.

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.

The Iran-backed Shiite terror group is a key political player in Lebanon.

According to the Treasury, Ahmad has an extensive art collection in the UK 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. It listed those businesses as including White Starr DMCC, Bexley Way General Trading LLC, Best Diamond House DMCC, Sierra Gem Diamonds Company NV, Park Ventures SAL and the Artual Gallery.

“We will always proactively defend our economy against those who seek to abuse it,” Treasury Lords Minister Baroness Penn said in the statement. “The firm action we have taken today will clamp down on those who are funding international terrorism, strengthening the UK’s economic and national security.”

The freeze does not change the ownership of the assets and they are not transferred to the government for safekeeping, the ministry stressed.

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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