The U.S. Department of Justice today expanded its massive corruption case involving a Malaysian state development fund, seeking to seize an additional $540 million in allegedly stolen assets.
The case alleges a series of schemes to misappropriate billions of dollars from 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and has implicated close associates of Prime Minister Najib Razak. The government has previously alleged that Red Granite Pictures — whose chairman, Riza Aziz, is Razak’s stepson — used stolen funds to finance “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
The new complaints allege that stolen funds were also used to finance “Dumb and Dumber To” and “Daddy’s Home.” The complaint seeks to recover Red Granite’s proceeds from those films, in addition to other assets including a $260 million yacht and artworks by Picasso and Basquiat. Taken together, the total amount allegedly taken from 1MDB is now $4.5 billion.
“This money financed the lavish lifestyles of the alleged co-conspirators at the expense and detriment of the Malaysian people,” said Kenneth Blanco, an acting assistant attorney general. “We are unwavering in our commitment to ensure the United States is not a safe haven for corrupt individuals and kleptocrats to hide their ill-gotten wealth or money, and that recovered assets be returned to the victims from which they were taken.”
Red Granite has previously said that it did not knowingly receive stolen funds. The company continues to operate.
“As we have previously disclosed, Red Granite is actively engaged in discussions with the Justice Department aimed at resolving these civil cases and is fully cooperating,” the company said in a statement. “In the meantime, Red Granite remains an active production company, moving ahead to complete post production work on its next feature film while developing exciting new projects.”
The complaint, posted below, also contains new revelations about Leonardo DiCaprio. In earlier filings, the “Wolf of Wall Street” star was identified as “Hollywood Actor 1.” But the new complaint identifies him by name and states that he received three artworks from participants in the conspiracy, which were allegedly purchased with stolen funds.
The artworks are “Nature Morte au Crane de Taureau,” by Pablo Picasso; “Boy with the Toy Hand Grenade,” a photograph by Diane Arbus; and “Redman One,” a collage by Jean-Michel Basquiat. The government alleges that Jho Low, the central figure in the case, bought the Basquiat and the Arbus, for $9.2 million and $750,000 respectively, and gave them to DiCaprio. The Picasso was allegedly purchased by Eric Tan, an associate of Low’s, for $3.2 million and given to DiCaprio as a birthday gift.
In a statement, a spokesman for DiCaprio said that he has initiated the process of turning over the artworks to the U.S. government. DiCaprio’s representative also stated that he has handed over an Oscar statuette awarded to Marlon Brando. The statuette was a gift from Red Granite, but is not identified in the government’s complaint as being tainted with stolen funds. DiCaprio reached out to the government following the initial civil forfeiture action last July.
“This effort was to determine if there were any gifts or charitable donations originating from the parties named in the civil complaint, and to offer the return of any such gifts or donations with the aid and instruction of the government,” the spokesman said. “Prior to the government’s filing of the civil pleading today, Mr. DiCaprio initiated return of these items, which were received and accepted by him for the purpose of being included in an annual charity auction to benefit his eponymous foundation. He has also returned an Oscar originally won by Marlon Brando, which was given to Mr. DiCaprio as a set gift by Red Granite to thank him for his work on The Wolf of Wall Street. Mr. DiCaprio is grateful for the support of the government in this effort, and continues to hope that justice is done in this matter.”
DiCaprio has not been accused of wrongdoing.