It’s The Wolf of Wall Street meets The Gambler.
Hollywood superstar Leonardo DiCaprio’s long-time friendship with disgraced New York art dealer Hillel ‘Helly’ Nahmad, 45, appears to be going strong nearly a decade after the convicted felon’s brief stint in jail, as the pair were snapped boarding a private jet in Italy over the weekend.
In addition to accusations of hiding a famous painting pilfered by the Nazis during World War II, Nahmad – a member of the world’s wealthiest art collector family – is perhaps best known for being caught running an illegal celebrity-studded gambling ring alongside famed poker tournament hostess Molly Bloom in 2013.
The high-stakes card games were frequented by DiCaprio, 48, and fellow actors Tobey Maguire, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, as well as baseball slugger Alex Rodriguez.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who is a noted climate activist, was seen traveling with Helly Nahmad at Olbia Airport in Sardinia – which has its own private jet terminal for wealthy travelers – after attending a wedding on Monday
The actor and the New York art collector (pictured with gallery owner Tony Shafrazi in 2011) have been friends for over a decade, with DiCaprio named among the stars who had participated in Nahmad’s gambling parties
Nahmad is the son of David Nahmad, who is one of the highest-profile art dealers in the world, with a fortune estimated at $3billion
The photos showed DiCaprio and Nahmad flying out of Olbia Private Airport in Sardinia, on a private jet, despite DiCaprio being a noted climate activist.
But besides the actor’s apparent endorsement of private aviation, which is said to account for more CO2 emissions than that of entire countries, his association with Nahmad may stir up some more controversy.
Leo had been in Sardinia for Helly’s brother Joseph Nahmad’s wedding
DiCaprio, whose upcoming Martin Scorsese-directed movie Killers of the Flower Moon garnered rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival, had attended the lavish wedding of Nahmad’s brother Joe on the Italian island before the photos were taken.
The ceremony, reported to have cost more than $2million, lured the likes of retired football quarterback Tom Brady, model Irina Shayk, and tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams, to the Mediterranean island.
They watched as Joe Nahmad, whose family has an estimated fortune of $3billion thanks to their ownership and sales of works by Picasso, Monet and Matisse, exchanged vows with model Madison Headrick, who has appeared in shows for Prada and Calvin Klein.
Nahmad is the son of David Nahmad, one of the most high-profile art dealer and collector in the world, with a fortune estimated at $3billion.
The Helly Nahmad Gallery, in New York carries works by the likes of Wassily Kandinsky and Francis Bacon.
Prior to his arrest in 2013, the young wealthy art peddler was known to run in a dizzying social circle of A-list friends, which included supermodel Gisele Bündchen and her now ex-husband Brady.
The Nahmads are not only extremely well connected in the world of arts but in politics as well.
In fact, Nahmad, a resident of Manhattan’s Trump Tower, was one of 237 people pardoned by Donald Trump for his conviction on one federal felony count of illegal gambling, hours before the former president left office in early 2021.
Helly and David Nahmad pose in front of a Picasso painting at the Helly Nahmed Gallery in the Carlyle Hotel in 2006
The Helly Nahmad Gallery carries works by the likes of Wassily Kandinsky and Francis Bacon
DiCaprio was spotted entering the Helly Nahmad Gallery on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 2015
Nahmad’s guilty plea was accepted on April 30, 2014 by a judge in Los Angeles who sentenced him to one year and one day in a state prison.
He was released after serving just four months of his sentence.
He then spent three years under supervised release and was ordered to forfeit $6.42million in cash plus ‘all rights, title and interest in a painted titled Carnaval a Nice by Raoul Dufy’ – which was worth about $100,000 at the time.
At sentencing, he told the judge he was ashamed. ‘My family is a private family and I have brought dishonor to it,’ he said.
‘No matter what your sentence today, I will never forgive myself. Others who love me may forgive, but I will not.’
The art dealer was among 34 co-defendants arrested for running a $100million-gambling ring for celebrities and executives in April 2013.
The scathing indictments alleged racketeering, money laundering, extortion and fraud.
They also named Molly Bloom. The Hollywood poker hostess then wrote the book Molly’s Game which was adapted into a movie with the same title by Aaron Sorkin with Jessica Chastain in Bloom’s role.
His arrest, however, wasn’t the first time Nahmad had made news.
Prior to his arrest in 2013, the wealthy art peddler was known to run in a dizzying social circle of A-list friends, which included supermodel Gisele Bündchen
Nahmad was among 34 co-defendants arrested for running a $100million-gambling ring for celebrities and executives in April 2013. He is pictured arriving at court in 2014
Modigliani’s painting Seated Man with a Cane, painting allegedly stolen by the Nazis is at the center of a complaint against Helly Nahmad
Nahmad, whose gallery is on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, became the target of a civil lawsuit that alleged he dealt in art stolen from European Jews by the Nazis before and during World War II, more particularly a painting by Amedeo Modigliani.
The complaint was filed against Helly Nahmad as an individual and his art gallery as well as patriarch David Nahmad by Frenchman Philippe Maestracci over ownership of the 1918 painting Seated Man With a Cane.
Maestracci is the administrator of the estate of Oscar Stettiner, a Jewish art dealer who sought to reclaim the painting before he passed away three years after the war ended – and eventually, the painting ended up in the possession of a mysterious Panamanian company IAC.
In 2016, leaked documents from a law firm in Panama documented the Nahmads’ links to IAC.
The matter is pending after authorities in Switzerland seized the painting, which could be worth $30million, from a warehouse in Geneva.