Riza Aziz, a Hollywood producer whose credits include Martin Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street” and the Will Ferrell comedy “Daddy’s Home,” was charged with five counts of money-laundering in Malaysia, the New York Times reported.
Aziz, the stepson of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, was arrested on Thursday in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur and pleaded not guilty to the charges, which could lead to 25 years in prison if convicted.
“Today’s charges are a repeat of civil allegations that had previously been resolved with the US government without any admission or finding of wrongdoing, and which resulted in $60 million being given to Malaysia,” his attorney, Matthew Schwartz, said in a statement. “It is a shame that Riza has become collateral damage in a political crusade to jail his step-father. When the actual evidence comes out, it will be clear that he has done nothing wrong.”
Aziz has been embroiled in a long-running scandal involving the disappearance of up to $4.5 billion from a government investment fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad that was controlled by Razak, who was defeated at the polls last year in the wake of the news.
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In addition to the new charges against Aziz, his stepfather has been charged with abuse of power, breach of trust and money laundering while his mother, Rosmah Mansor, faces charges for money laundering and tax evasion. Both have denied the charges.
The U.S. Department of Justice has accused Aziz of misappropriating 1MDB funds to purchase luxury real estate and finance his Red Granite production company, which has financed such films as the Oscar-nominated “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Daddy’s Home” and “Dumb and Dumber To.”
Last year, Red Granite paid a $60 million to the U.S. government to settle a civil lawsuit involving the funds for all three studio films. According to the Financial Times, $57 million of that mount was returned to Malaysia.