March 8, 2018 12:00 pm

‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ movie producers to pay $60M to U.S. gov’t after financing with stolen funds

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in 'The Wolf of Wall Street.'

Paramount Pictures

The company behind the 2013 film, The Wolf of Wall Street, agreed to pay the United States government $60 million to settle a civil lawsuit that sought to seize assets allegedly bought with money stolen from a Malaysian state fund.

The film’s producer, Red Granite Pictures, co-founded by the Malaysian prime minister’s stepson, announced last September that it had “reached a settlement in principle” with the U.S. government, but did not reveal any sum at the time.

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According to a filing in a California court on Wednesday, the company also settled claims against its rights and interests in two other films, Daddy’s Home and Dumb and Dumber To.

Producers Riza Aziz (L), Joey McFarland (R) and Leonardo DiCaprio attend the EE British Academy Film Awards 2014 at The Royal Opera House on February 16, 2014 in London, England.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

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“We are glad to finally put this matter behind us and look forward to refocusing all of our attention back on our film business,” Red Granite said in a statement on the filing.

U.S prosecutors, pursuing their biggest kleptocracy asset recovery initiative, had claimed the three films were financed by Red Granite using money misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund founded in 2009 by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

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While Najib has not been the subject of any of the lawsuits, a number of his close associates, including stepson Riza Aziz, have been named by U.S. investigators.

Najib and Riza have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

The Malaysian prime minister’s office did not respond to an emailed request from Reuters for comment.

Wednesday’s filing said Red Granite would pay the government in three instalments: $30 million within 30 days, $20 million within the next 180 days, and the final $10 million within 180 days after that.

Film studio Paramount Pictures, which has held profits from Daddy’s Home while the case was pending, would release the funds to a government-controlled account.

The forfeiture suit was part of a broader U.S. action to seize some $1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with funds misappropriated from 1MDB.

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The U.S. prosecutors had asked for the civil forfeiture suits to be put on hold last year while they pursued a criminal investigation. Last week, the Justice Department asked a court to lift the stay so that the settlement could be reached.

Under the terms of the settlement, Riza will draw no salary from Red Granite during the payment period, other than what is needed to maintain health insurance coverage.

The settlement also stipulates that the payment should not be construed as “an admission of wrongdoing or liability on the part of Red Granite.”

The U.S. lawsuits have also sought to seize a $3.2-million Picasso painting, allegedly bought from 1MDB funds and gifted to actor Leonardo DiCaprio, the star of The Wolf of Wall Street.

Red Granite also gave DiCaprio another extravagant birthday gift: the Oscar given to Marlon Brando in 1955 for On the Waterfront, worth around US$600,000. DiCaprio has since surrendered the statue and the painting as part of the 1MDB investigation.

Editing by Clarence Fernandez

© 2018 Reuters

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