Jordan Belfort says he’s learned a thing or two from his Wolf of Wall Street days. The ex-stockbroker, who spent nearly two years in prison after pleading guilty to financial fraud in 1999, famously spun his unbelievable life story into a best-selling memoir that was later adapted into Martin Scorsese’s celebrated 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort. Life began imitating art, however, last spring, when word first broke that the production company behind the film—Red Granite Pictures—was under federal investigation for alleged shady dealings of its own involving, improbably enough, the Malaysian government and up to $7 billion of missing money.
Naturally, Belfort—never one to shy away from speaking his mind—has a thing or two to say about that. “The movie’s a huge success, and then it turns out the guys who financed it were criminals,” Belfort told the Swiss financial news sitein an interview published late last week. “Leo got sucked in. Leo’s an honest guy. But I met these guys, and said to Anne”—Koppe, Belfort’s fiancée—“these guys are fucking criminals.”
DiCaprio himself contacted the Justice Department in July, offering his aid as it began to investigate the ties between Red Granite and the Malaysian corruption scandal that allegedly funded The Wolf of Wall Street. “Both Mr. DiCaprio and [the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation] continue to be entirely supportive of all efforts to assure that justice is done in this matter,” the actor’s representative said in a statement. “Mr. DiCaprio is grateful for the lead and instruction of the government on how to accomplish this.”
In the new interview, Belfort also dug into the film’s notoriously over-the-top 2011 Cannes launch party, a lavish affair that stood out even among the film festival’s typically extravagant soirees. It helped that the party, which featured fireworks and Kanye West and Jaimie Foxx performing “Gold Digger,” among other things, was thrown before The Wolf of Wall Street itself had actually gone into production.
Recalled Belfort: “They flew me to Cannes four or five months after they bought the movie and they wanted to announce it in Cannes. It hadn’t even gone into production yet, and they threw a launch party. They must have spent $3 million on a launch party. They flew in Kanye West, and I said to Anne, ‘this is a fucking scam. Anybody who does this has stolen money.’ You wouldn’t spend money you worked for like that.”
Belfort, an admitted fraudster himself, maintains—with the major benefit of hindsight—that he did his best to steer clear of Red Granite and its questionable spending, refusing an alleged $500,000 payday to attend a gambling trip in Vegas—one he says DiCaprio and his co-star Margot Robbie attended, and one that has been cited in the Justice Department complaint against Red Granite. The trip allegedly was funded with money from 1MDB, the Malaysian fund allegedly used to boost Red Granite’s bank account.
“And because of that I’m not mentioned in the articles,” Belfort said—perhaps referring to articles like this one, about a charity organization that called upon DiCaprio to discuss the Malaysian corruption scandal linked to Red Granite. “I’ve learned my lesson,” continued Belfort. “It’s all Red Granite. They tried to offer me money and give me things. I never even spoke to these guys. I was like, ‘I don’t need these fucking people.’ I knew it, it was so obvious.”
Red Granite has not yet responded to Vanity Fair’s request for comment. When contacted in the past about the scandal, the production company responded with the following statement:
“To Red Granite’s knowledge, none of the funding it received four years ago was in any way illegitimate and there is nothing in today’s civil lawsuit claiming that Red Granite knew otherwise. Red Granite continues to cooperate fully with all inquiries and is confident that when the facts come out, it will be clear that Riza Aziz and Red Granite did nothing wrong. Red Granite does not expect the lawsuit—which is limited to future proceeds generated by a single film, and which was not filed against Red Granite or any of its employees—to impact its day to day operations, and the company continues to move forward with exciting new projects.”