The Justice Department moved on Wednesday to seize more than $1 billion allegedly stolen from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, as part of a sprawling kleptocracy investigation that spanned three continents.
At the center of the case is Riza Aziz, the CEO of Red Granite Pictures and the stepson of Najib Razak, the prime minister of Malaysia. The asset forfeiture action alleges that Aziz diverted government funds to finance the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and to buy luxury real estate and pay gambling expenses. The complaint alleges that Aziz used diverted funds to gamble in Las Vegas with financier Jho Low and “Hollywood Actor 1” — easily identifiable as DiCaprio.
In total, the government allegedly that some $3.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB, the Malaysian fund, through a complex web of shell companies and real estate transactions. The case is the largest kleptocracy case ever filed by the U.S. government.
“We will not allow the United States to become a playground for the corrupt,” said Eileen Decker, the U.S. Attorney for Los Angeles, at a press conference announcing the action in Washington, D.C.
Red Granite referred questions to a publicist, who did not have an immediate comment. In the past, the company has said that it received investment from Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny, an Abu Dhabi businessman, and denied allegations that it had taken money from 1MDB. Over the last year, investigators in the U.S., Switzerland and Singapore have worked to trace assets back to 1MDB — a job that investigators said was too complex for any single agency to handle on its own.
“We will be relentless in our efforts to deny them the proceeds from their crimes,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Lynch said that the government is seeking to seize future revenues from “The Wolf of Wall Street” that would go to Red Granite. Much of the money from the scheme has been dissipated, she said.