Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
By Stephen Gandel and Reuters
July 20, 2016

It is once again a case of life imitating art.

The Department of Justice has confirmed that it believes the ultimate bad boy financier movie “Wolf of Wall Street” was financed through some pretty naughty financial maneuvers. On Wednesday, the U.S. federal prosecutors have filed civil lawsuits seeking to seize assets worth more than $1 billion, allegedly stolen from Malaysian state fund 1MDB, which has been under investigation for more than a year.

The fund was overseen by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. But while Najib is not named in the suit, his stepson Riza Aziz is as a “relevant individual.” Riza is the founder of Red Granite Pictures, which produced the Oscar-nominated “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Riza could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuits also named Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, better known as “Jho Low,” and Abu Dhabi government officials Khadem Abdulla Al-Qubaisi and Mohammed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny.

Al Qubaisi and Al-Husseiny are former officials at a sovereign fund in Abu Dhabi that participated in deals with 1MDB.

Jho Low did not respond to requests for comment sent to his Hong Kong-based company, Jynwel Capital. Al Qubaisi and Al-Husseiny could not be reached for comment.

The people named in the complaint have not been charged with crimes – the defendants in the civil lawsuits are the properties the government wants to seize.

Those include luxury properties in New York and California, paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, and a Bombardier jet.

On top of that, tens of millions of dollars in funds diverted from 1MDB were used to produce the 2013 Martin Scorsese film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the lawsuits said. The lawsuits aim to seize proceeds from that film, which was produced by Riza’s Red Granite Pictures.

The film about a penny stock fraudster was about how he used to ill-gotten gains to fund a sex and drug-fueled life for he and his colleagues. The connection between 1MDB and “Wolf of Wall Street” was the focus of a Wall Street Journal article back in April.

The movie was nominated for five oscars. WSJ reported in April that while the movie made $400 million, there is no indication that any of those profits flowed back to 1MDB or Malaysia.

 

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