Producer of movie The Wolf Of Wall Street settles US suit linked to 1MDB fund

Producer of The Wolf of Wall Street Riza Aziz at the 25th Annual Producers Guild of America Awards in Beverly Hills on Jan 19, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - The movie company that made The Wolf Of Wall Street, and was co-founded by the Malaysian prime minister's step son, has settled a civil lawsuit brought by the US government to seize assets allegedly bought with money stolen from a Malaysian state fund.

Red Granite Pictures announced the settlement in a filing at the federal Los Angeles court on Friday (Sept 15), without revealing any sum.

US prosecutors, pursuing a kleptocracy asset recovery initiative, had claimed the 2013 film, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was financed by Red Granite using funds stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

"The parties are pleased to inform the court that Red Granite and the government have reached a settlement in principle," the filing stated.

Red Granite has said previously that neither it, nor its co-founder Riza Aziz, had done anything wrong.

The US Justice Department has lodged dozens of lawsuits in the past two years related to the alleged misappropriation of US$4.5 billion (S$6 billion) from the investment fund, 1MDB.

The United States is seeking to seize some US$1.7 billion in assets, making it the largest action brought by the department under its kleptocracy asset recovery initiative.

The scandal has dogged Prime Minister Najib Razak, who had chaired 1MDB's advisory board until it was dismantled last year, but he has consistently denied any wrong doing related to the fund.

While Najib has not been the subject of any of the lawsuits, a number of his close associates, including step son Riza Aziz, have been named by US investigators.

Both US and Malaysian officials have confirmed, however, that Najib is the "Malaysian Official Number 1" referred to in Federal Bureau of Investigation reports.

Red Granite Pictures provided no details of the settlement, which the filing said remains subject to final documentation and necessary approvals within the government.

The settlement also covers claims against Red Granite's rights and interests in two other pictures, Daddy's Home and Dumb And Dumber To.

Potential witnesses in 1MDB cases are afraid to speak with US investigators as they fear for their safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said earlier this month.

The US lawsuits have also sought to seize a Picasso painting given to American movie star Leonardo DiCaprio and millions of dollars worth of jewellery give to Australian model and actress Miranda Kerr, all allegedly from 1MDB funds.

Najib met US President Donald Trump at the White House earlier this week, but both leaders steered clear of addressing the American investigation into the 1MDB scandal.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.