UPDATED with statements from Red Granite and DiCaprio reps: The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section has outlined the tangled web of money laundering and the ill-gotten finances that were funneled into Red Granite and used to fund Hollywood films. In a government filing today, the DOJ outlines why it should be able to seize all rights to Red Granite films Dumb And Dumber To and Daddy’s Home. They also want to recover real estate, jewelry, a jet, artwork of Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Basquiat and Diane Arbus, and movie posters including an original of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis valued at $1.3M that apparently still hangs in Red Granite co-founder Riza Aziz’s office. Maybe that’s why the FBI visited the office today?
In addition, the government in its filing today in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California outlined how money flowed into Las Vegas to fund a night of gambling that included Leonardo DiCaprio — a recipient of gifts also allegedly bought with laundered money. DiCaprio has been cooperating with the government in the return of assets after the actor was pro-active and contacted the DOJ.
“Last July, upon hearing of the government’s civil action against certain parties involved in the making of The Wolf Of Wall Street, Mr. DiCaprio’s representatives – working under his instruction – initiated contact with the Department of Justice,” a DiCaprio spokesperson said today. “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.
“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.”
Deadline was the first to report Red Granite was being investigated by the feds and that its assets — which included the Paramount comedy Daddy’s Home — could be seized in a recovery prompted by the government. THR was first to report the news of the filing today.
The Department of Justice has alleged a vast scheme carried out by co-conspirators — which included The Wolf Of Wall Street producer Red Granite and its co-founder Aziz — to enrich themselves to the detriment of the Malaysian people via money drawn from the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad, known as 1MDB.
1MDB began in 2009 when Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak turned it into a state-run entity, ostensibly to help the economic well-being of Malaysia. Low Taek Jho — known as Jho Low — was one of its architects. The DOJ said funds to the tune of more than $3 billion were “stolen” from 1MD. Corrupt officials at 1MDB “used this account as a personal bank account,” they said last year.
Today’s 251-page filing certainly peels back layers of the onion (read it in full here), detailing a complicated web of transferring money from one account to another by various entities, many of which had Jho Low in the center of it. He facilitated money to Red Granite and Aziz and also made sure money got into the Venetian in Vegas where DiCaprio joined him to gamble. Aziz is Najib Razak’s stepson.
Here is a statement from Red Granite reps: “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. 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.”