Accused Hezbollah financier Nazem Ahmad's 'right-hand man' extradited to US

Sundar Nagarajan managed financial network of the wanted art and blood-diamond dealer, American authorities claim

Nazem Ahmad is alleged to have laundered money using artwork as a smokescreen for criminal activities. Photo: US Department of Justice
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An accountant alleged to have acted as right-hand man to accused Hezbollah financier Nazem Ahmad has been extradited to the US.

Sundar Nagarajan, 56, was arrested in London at the behest of the American authorities this year on suspicion of fraud and money-laundering offences.

The Indian citizen was detained by the Met Police’s National Extradition Unit, acting on an international arrest warrant, in April.

He was due to face an extradition hearing next year but it has now emerged he has agreed to be extradited to the US.

“I can confirm the requested person was extradited to the USA on December 8,” a Crown Prosecution Service representative told The National.

Mr Ahmad, who has an extensive art collection in Britain and business links with several galleries and auction houses, is one of Hezbollah’s “top donors”, generating funds through his ties to the blood diamond trade, the US alleges.

According to the US Treasury department, Mr Nagarajan acted as the primary international accountant for Mr Ahmad, a Lebanese and Belgian citizen who since 2019 has been under US sanctions, which were extended in 2022.

On the day Mr Nagarajan was arrested, the UK announced additional sanctions on Mr Ahmad. In the US, authorities announced nine charges against Mr Ahmad and eight co-accused, including Mr Nagarajan.

Among the charges Mr Ahmad is facing are defrauding the US and foreign governments, evading sanctions and money laundering.

It is alleged he and others used a complex web of businesses to obtain valuable artwork from US artists and galleries, while hiding Mr Ahmad’s involvement in and benefit from these activities.

About $160 million was siphoned through the US financial system, according to United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

The US Treasury further alleges Mr Nagarajan was the central manager of financial ledgers detailing the network’s operations.

He also facilitated payment for and shipment of art that Mr Ahmad, described as an associate of high-level members of Hezbollah, purchased from major auction houses and galleries, the department claims.

Mr Nagarajan is also known as Nagarajan Sundar Poongulam Kasiviswanathan Naga and Sundar Poongulam K. Nagarajan Nagarajan, American authorities claim.

“The United States implemented terrorism sanctions so that terrorist organisations like Hezbollah would be cut off from the goods and services needed to fund violent acts of terrorism,” said US lawyer Breon Peace at the time charges were announced.

“As alleged, Nazem Ahmad and his co-defendants benefitted from the multimillion-dollar trade in diamonds and artwork, even after Ahmad was sanctioned for his involvement with a terrorist organisation.”

The US Department of Justice said Mr Ahmad is not in US custody and is believed to be a resident of Lebanon.

Updated: December 20, 2023, 8:03 PM