The Helly Nahmad Gallery in Manhattan reopened a week after it was raided by U.S. agents, and will continue to operate as the owner faces charges he ran a high-stakes gambling ring that catered to celebrities and the very wealthy, his lawyer said.
Hillel Nahmad, 34, known as Helly, was charged April 16 by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara with racketeering, money-laundering conspiracy and other charges. Nahmad was among 34 people charged with operating two overlapping gambling rings.
“We do not believe that Mr. Nahmad knowingly violated the law and we anticipate that he will be fully exonerated,” Benjamin Brafman, Nahmad’s co-counsel, said in an e-mailed statement. “This case will not in any way impact the continued lawful operation of the Nahmad Gallery.”
The gallery, whose windows were covered last week, reopened on April 22. It had closed April 12 for renovations and the installation of a new show, said Marzina Marzetti, the gallery’s director. “It’s just bad timing,” she said of the gallery’s closing that took place during the week of the April 16 raid. “It had nothing to do with it.”
A sign at the entrance announced the exhibition “Impressionist & Modern Masters,” which is open to the public. Works by Mark Rothko, Wayne Thiebaud and Jean Dubuffet were hung on the walls. A small sculpture by Alexander Calder, painted red and blue, stood in the center of the room on a low pedestal.
Nahmad declined to comment on the charges Tuesday afternoon as he walked downstairs to the gallery’s ground floor at the Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue.
According to the indictment, Nahmad, along with Illya Trincher, ran an operation that used illegal online gambling websites to generate tens of millions of dollars in bets each year. Trincher, 27, of Beverly Hills, California, was also charged. The ring was supported, in part, by the gallery, according to the indictment.
Nahmad’s bail conditions were modified late yesterday, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. The bond amount was increased to $10 million from $500,000, secured by his Trump Tower Fifth Avenue apartment, according to an order approved by the judge. If convicted, Nahmad faces a maximum of 92 years in prison, Bharara’s office said.
As part of his bail, Nahmad surrendered his U.S., Italian and Brazilian passports and his travel is restricted to the southern and eastern districts of New York.
His pretrial conference is scheduled for March 13, 2014. The trial date is set for June 9, 2014, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Nahmad’s younger brother, Joseph, was also at the gallery Tuesday. He said he is preparing to open a solo show on May 9 by contemporary artist Sterling Ruby in a building across the street from the Carlyle that houses the Gagosian Gallery.
The Nahmad family hails from Aleppo, Syria. Its members operate galleries in New York and London. Their collection of about 3,000 artworks, including 200 oil paintings by Pablo Picasso, is valued at around $5 billion by Skate’s Art Market Research. Joseph Nahmad and other family members haven’t been charged with a crime.
Picasso’s 1923-24 painting “Le petit pierrot aux fleurs,” which is in the Nahmad collection, has an estimated value of $40 million, according to Skate’s.
From December 2011 to January of 2012, the family exhibited 100 works for the first time at Kunsthaus Zurich. The show included works by Picasso, Claude Monet, Amedeo Modigliani, Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky, Fernand Leger, Rene Magritte, Henri Matisse and Joan Miro.
One of the highlights was Kazimir Malevich’s 1916 “Suprematist Composition,” which fetched $60 million at Sotheby’s in 2008, a record for the artist at auction.
Another artwork, Kandinsky’s “Study for Improvisation 3” was sold for $16.9 million at Christie’s in 2008. Monet’s 1874 canvas “Canotiers a Argenteuil” is valued at $40 million by Skate’s.
The case is U.S. v. Tokhtakhounov, 13-cr-00268, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).