Entertainment

The US Government Just Moved To Seize Rights To ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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The U.S. Department of Justice announced the largest civil forfeiture in U.S. history on Wednesday, filing a motion to seize the rights to the Oscar-nominated film “The Wolf of Wall Street” and all attending profits on the grounds it was illegally financed.

Federal officials announced that the Department filed a motion to seize the film’s rights after an investigation revealed that the film was financed by a Malaysian government fund established to spur local economic development through foreign direct investment in the beleaguered Asian nation. The DOJ wants to recover more than $1 billion and various assets allegedly obtained through the corruption.

The account, 1Malaysia Development Bhd.(1MDB), was established by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and administered by his stepson, Riza Aziz, who is the co-founder and chairman of Red Granite Pictures — the entertainment outfit that produced “Wolf of Wall Street.”

DOJ officials say that more than $100 million originating with 1MDB were laundered through shell corporations and offshore accounts in the British Virgin Islands with the assistance of a shady financier in Abu Dhabi named Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny.

“These funds are directly traceable to the $700 million wire transfer and $330 million wire transfers unlawfully diverted from 1MDB to the Good Star Account,” the complaint reads.

“Unfortunately and tragically, a number of corrupt officials treated this public trust as a personal bank account,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.

The film, financed almost entirely by embezzled 1MDB funds, grossed over $392 million, making it one of the most successful films of the 2013 season.

“Of course, neither 1MDB or the Malaysian people say a penny of profit from that film or the other assets purchased with funds siphoned from 1MDB,” said Leslie Caldwell, Asst. Attorney General for the Criminal Division. “Instead, that money went to relatives and associates of the corrupt officials of 1MDB and others.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in April that those benefits may have included Jordan Belfort caliber debauchery. On concluding the film’s production in 2012, many of the cast and crew, including a small band of Red Granite associates, took in the New Year at a lavish party in Australia, before renting a jetliner to fly to Las Vegas in time to celebrate the holiday again. Leading men Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill were among those present. DiCaprio and Aziz later traveled together to the World Cup in Brazil, spending time aboard a 482-foot yacht owned by an Emirati sheik who chairs the same wealth fund Al-Husseiny helps administer.

The Journal also said that Red Granite associates purchased an Oscar statuette won by Marlon Brando for DiCaprio’s birthday valued at nearly $600,000.

Other 1MDB-linked assets unrelated to the film by targeted by the Department of Justice include hundreds of millions in laundered funds, a private aircraft valued at $35 million, and works of art produced by Claude Monet.

“It should also send a signal that the Department of Justice is determined to prevent the American financial system to be used as a conduit for corruption and should make clear to corrupt officials around the world that we will be relentless in our efforts to deny them the proceeds of their crimes,” Lynch said.

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