I Film stu­dio in talks over 1MDB fund­ing

Financial Times USA - - FRONT PAGE - J EEVAN VASAGAR — SI NGAPORE

The Hol­ly­wood stu­dio be­hind The Wolf of Wall Street is in talks with the US jus­tice depart­ment to set­tle a law­suit al­leg­ing the film was funded via the scan­dal-hit Malaysian fund 1MDB.—

The Hol­ly­wood stu­dio be­hind The Wolf of Wall Street is in talks with the US jus­tice depart­ment to set­tle a law­suit al­leg­ing the film was funded with money di­verted from 1MDB, the Malaysian state in­vest­ment fund mired in a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar em­bez­zle­ment scan­dal.

The civil case against the movie, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio as crooked trader Jor­dan Belfort, is a com­po­nent of the largest as­set seizure the US has brought un­der an anti-klep­toc­racy ini­tia­tive established in 2010.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors and lawyers for Red Gran­ite Pic­tures asked a Cal­i­for­nia fed­eral judge this week to ex­tend a dead­line in the law­suit so they could “fo­cus on their on­go­ing negotiations”.

“The par­ties have been ac­tively dis­cussing a po­ten­tial set­tle­ment that would com­pletely resolve this mat­ter,” lawyers for both sides told the judge in Los Angeles in a joint state­ment, ac­cord­ing to a court doc­u­ment.

The 1MDB case, in which US prose­cu­tors are mov­ing to seize $1bn in as­sets, in­clud­ing profits from the 2013 Martin Scors­ese film, is re­garded as a test of US author­i­ties’ will­ing­ness and abil­ity to fight grand cor­rup­tion.

Red Gran­ite Pic­tures was co-founded by Riza Aziz, a step­son of Na­jib Razak, Malaysian prime min­is­ter, who set up 1MDB in 2009.

In a state­ment last July, when the US civil claim was filed, the film com­pany said: “To Red Gran­ite’s knowl­edge, none of the fund­ing it re­ceived four years ago was in any way il­le­git­i­mate and there is noth­ing in to­day’s civil law­suit claim­ing that Red Gran­ite knew oth­er­wise.”

The film is Mr Scors­ese’s most suc­cess­ful at the box of­fice, gen­er­at­ing $392m in worldwide ticket sales.

As well as al­leg­ing that The Wolf of Wall Street re­ceived il­licit fi­nance, US prose­cu­tors al­lege that Mr Aziz used money di­verted from 1MDB to buy prop­er­ties in Bev­erly Hills, New York and London.

In a pre­vi­ous court fil­ing, lawyers for Mr Aziz de­scribed him as an “in­no­cent owner” of the prop­er­ties. He did not en­gage in a money-laun­der­ing transac- tion or any other of­fence, the lawyers said.

Mr Aziz is a friend of Jho Low, a Malaysian busi­ness­man who played no for­mal role at 1MDB but was deeply in­volved in its op­er­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to US author­i­ties. Mr Low re­ceived a “spe­cial thanks” credit at the end of The Wolf of Wall Street.

When Mr DiCaprio won a Golden Globe for his per­for­mance in the film, he thanked Mr Aziz and Mr Low, say­ing: “Thank you for not only be­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors but tak­ing a risk on this movie, truly.”

US prose­cu­tors al­lege that Mr Low and his as­so­ciates pur­chased as­sets in­clud­ing a Bom­bardier jet and the Viceroy L’Er­mitage ho­tel in Bev­erly Hills as part of a con­spir­acy to laun­der funds stolen from 1MDB.

Mr Low has pre­vi­ously de­nied wrong­do­ing in re­la­tion to the fi­nan­cial scan­dal. Mr Low and his fam­ily have taken le­gal steps to con­test the US as­set seizure.

Red Gran­ite Pic­tures de­clined to com­ment. The move to set­tle the case was first re­ported by The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter.

Hol­ly­wood drama: Leonardo DiCaprio as crooked trader Jor­dan Belfort in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.