Art law News USA

Helly Nahmad pleads guilty to operating illegal gambling ring

The New York gallery owner and part of the powerful art-dealing family to forfeit $6.4m and his interest in a painting by Raoul Dufy to the government

Hillel Nahmad leaves federal court in New York today, 19 April 2013. Photo: Louis Lanzano/AP

Helly Nahmad this afternoon pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to one count connected to operating an illegal gambling enterprise. Nahmad, who operates the Helly Nahmad Gallery in New York and is part of the powerful art-dealing family, had been charged with numerous crimes arising out of his co-heading what the government alleges is an international organised crime enterprise that generated “tens of millions of dollars” in sports bets every year. In return for his plea, the government dropped charges of fraud and racketeering.

“Nahmad bet that he would never get caught and he lost,” said the US Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement.

In his guilty plea, Nahmad admitted that he led and organised an illegal sports gambling business and was the primary source of its financing. Appearing in court today he said, “this all started as a group of friends betting on sports events, but I recognise that I crossed the line, and I apologise to the court and my family,” the New York Times reports.

Nahmad agreed to forfeit $6.4m and to give the federal government his interest in the painting Carnaval a Nice, 1937 by Raoul Dufy. He also faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and three years of supervised release, according to the US Attorney’s office. Nahmad’s lawyers, however, said in a statement to media that they are “hopeful that at sentencing, the court will not impose any period of incarceration, recognising Hillel’s unblemished background and his many redeeming qualities”. Sentencing is scheduled for 19 March 2014.

Nahmad is the 14th person to plead guilty in the 34-defendant federal criminal case.

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