KUALA LUMPUR • The Malaysian producer of Hollywood film The Wolf Of Wall Street and stepson of the country's disgraced former leader was yesterday charged with illegally receiving almost US$250 million (S$339 million) from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund.
Riza Aziz pleaded not guilty to five charges of money laundering when he appeared in a Kuala Lumpur court. He is accused of receiving US$248.17 million in 2011 and 2012 in illegal proceeds that originated from the scandal-hit Malaysian fund.
The money was sent to the bank accounts of Hollywood production company Red Granite Pictures, which Riza co-founded, according to the charges.
Each charge carries a financial penalty of up to RM5 million (S$1.6 million), a maximum jail term of five years or both.
As well as The Wolf Of Wall Street, a 2013 film about a huge financial scam that starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Red Granite produced the Jim Carrey movie Dumb And Dumber To and Daddy's Home.
Billions of dollars had been looted from 1MDB, allegedly by then Prime Minister Najib Razak and his cronies, who spent it on everything from a yacht to pricey artwork, in a globe-spanning fraud.
Prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram told reporters that the "money received by Riza came from 1MDB", and was channelled through two investment companies that have previously been linked to the scandal.
Riza - the son of Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor - was released after posting bail of RM1 million and surrendering his passports.
Anti-corruption investigators arrested him on Thursday in Malaysia after questioning.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has estimated that a total of US$4.5 billion was misappropriated by high-level officials at 1MDB and their associates between 2009 and 2014.
1MDB is being investigated in at least six countries for alleged money laundering and graft.
The DOJ, which is seeking to seize assets bought with 1MDB money in the US, had first accused Red Granite of being funded with stolen money.
In 2017, the company agreed to settle a US civil lawsuit against it for US$60 million, and, in May, the DOJ returned most of that money to Malaysia.
Najib was ejected from power at elections last year that ushered in the first change of government in Malaysia in six decades, in large part due to the 1MDB scandal.
Malaysia's new government has reopened probes into 1MDB. Najib has since been hit with scores of charges over the controversy and went on trial in April.
Riza's mother Rosmah - widely reviled in Malaysia due to her vast collection of handbags and penchant for overseas shopping trips - has also been arrested and charged over 1MDB.
Both Najib and Rosmah deny wrongdoing.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS