Hours before the end of his single-term presidency, Donald Trump unleashed a blitz of presidential pardons to 143 people. Among them is New York art dealer Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, a Trump Tower resident who was sentenced to prison in 2014 on charges of illegal gambling.
The art dealer, a scion of a Monaco-based family of billionaire art collectors, runs a blue-chip gallery on Madison Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. In November of 2013, Nahmad pled guilty to operating a multi-million dollar gambling ring, involving Russian oligarchs, out of his apartment at Trump Tower in Midtown, where he reportedly owns the entire 51st floor. In April of that year, federal agents raided his eponymous gallery, which deals in works of artists like Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon. The gallery has not responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.
In November of 2014, Nahmad was sentenced to a year and one day in prison, of which he served only five months. He was also ordered to pay a $30,000 fine, forfeit $6.4 million in earnings, and enroll in a gambling addiction program. His Trump Tower neighbor, Russian oligarch Vadim Trincher, was sentenced to five years in prison as part of the same scheme.
A White House statement said that since his conviction, Nahmad “has lived an exemplary life and has been dedicated to the well-being of his community.”
Nahamd belongs to a roster of pardon recipients that includes Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon and rappers Lil Wayne (Dwayne Michael Carter) and Kodak Black (Bill Kapri).
“Your Honor, I am ashamed,” Nahmad said in front of US District Judge Jesse M. Furman before he was handed his sentence in 2014, according to Art in America. “My family is a private family and I have brought dishonor to it. No matter what your sentence today, I will never forgive myself. Others who love me may forgive, but I will not.”
The judge rejected Nahmad’s plea to financially support an art program for disadvantaged youths instead of serving time in prison. Judge Furman said that Nahmad had shown no interest in community-oriented activities in the time since his arrest, highlighting a transaction in which he overcharged an unnamed woman in dire financial circumstances by over $100,000 in an art deal.
“He has had every single advantage in life and he took advantage of her vulnerability,” Judge Furman said, according to Art in America. “To allow him to use his family’s money to buy his way out of this would sow contempt for the law.”
The Nahmads are said to own one of the largest collections of Impressionist and Modernist art in the world. They made their fortune, which is estimated at $3 billion, in banking, currency trading, and art dealing.
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Author: Hakim Bishara