LOS ANGELES – The producer of “The Wolf of Wall Street” is in talks with the US Justice Department to settle a lawsuit alleging the movie was funded by money siphoned from a Malaysian state investment fund.
Lawyers for Red Granite Pictures Inc., which was co-founded by Riza Aziz, a stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, on Tuesday asked a federal judge in Los Angeles to extend a deadline in the lawsuit so that they can “focus on their ongoing negotiations.”
The case against the 2013 Martin Scorsese picture is part of more than a dozen forfeiture lawsuits the US filed last year against over US$1 billion in assets allegedly acquired with money stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd. The assets include mansions in Beverly Hills, California, luxury condos in New York, and art work.
The Justice Department is seeking the profits, royalties and distribution proceeds that are owed to Red Granite Pictures. The movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio took in US$392 million in worldwide ticket sales, according to website BoxOfficeMojo.
Riza is a friend of Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, the Malaysian financier whom the US alleges orchestrated the scheme that looted a total of US$3.5 billion from the US$8 billion Malaysian fund going back to 2009. Trusts for Low and his family are fighting the lawsuits seeking to forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, including a stake in New York’s Park Lane Hotel, a stake in EMI Music Publishing, a US$35-million Bombardier Jet, and a US$30-million penthouse at Time Warner Center.
Low has said he provided consulting to 1MDB that didn’t break any laws, while the fund and Najib Razak have both denied wrongdoing.
Matthew Schwartz, a lawyer for Red Granite Pictures, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the negotiations. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles, declined to comment.