How A Quiet Tamil Brahmin From Madurai Became An Accountant For Hezbollah

Hezbollah, a jihadist empire stretching out from Lebanon that has harried the US and Israel for decades, is being financed by a quiet Tamil Brahmin from Madurai named Nagarajan Sundar Poongulam Kasiviswanathan, who serves as its accountant.

The Lady Automaton, her head replaced by a retro telephone, cradled a cardboard box:  Evidence, it read. Luke Agada, the artist who created the work, either had a strange premonition—or an insider’s sense of humour. From studios in Chicago and New York, the work of emerging masters like Lucy Bull and Flora Yukhnovich, as well as the canonical art of Mark Rothko and Jean-Michel Basquiat, had been flowing to the Artual Gallery, in downtown Beirut. Eyebrows had begun to be raised.

From his penthouse in Beirut, the suave art collector Nazem Ahmad—whose acquisitions are believed to have included Pablo Picassos and Andy Warhols—funnelled the art to collectors across Europe. He also traded top-grade diamonds sourced from blood-soaked battlegrounds of the Democratic Republic of Congo—one a 108.8-carat monster—arranging for their journey to dealers in New York, United States authorities say.

Each morning, at his home in London’s suburban Hayes, Nagarajan Sundar Poongulam Kasiviswanathan—a quiet Tamil Brahmin born in the temple city of Madurai—would open the ledgers recording the flow of under-invoiced wealth through a maze of shadowy companies stretching across four continents. The money helped finance Hezbollah —a jihadist empire stretching out from Lebanon that has harried the US and Israel for decades.

The accountant, films have taught, is the quiet eminence gris of every criminal cartel. Le Chiffre, Ian Fleming’s archetype,  described thus: “Large sexual appetites. Flagellant. Expert driver of fast cars…carries three Eversharp razor blades, in hatband, heel of left shoe, and cigarette case.” The drug lord Franz Sanchez, villain of Licence to Kill (1989)hired the yuppie William Truman-Lodge as his financial manager, with bad consequences for both.

Fantasy, though, hasn’t prepared us for the prospect that a quiet Tamil—perhaps veshti-clad at home, and more fond of pepper-rasam than single malt—could play the same role.

The CBI raided Jet Airways offices and the residence of founder Naresh Goyal due to the agency registering a case of bank fraud on a complaint from Canara Bank.

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