The U.S. Justice Department is attempting to seize more than $1 billion in assets, including proceeds from "Wolf of Wall Street," from a Malaysian wealth fund associated with the Hollywood production company Red Granite Pictures.
The government claims the award-winning Martin Scorsese drama's production costs -- as well as unrelated real estate and art -- came from funds siphoned out of a Malaysian investment fund.
The FBI has been conducting a criminal investigation into people and institutions connected with 1Malaysia Development Bhd. (1MDB), the Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday.
"Funds that originated with 1MDB made their way into real estate in New York City and Los Angeles worth tens of millions of dollars and the funding of the 2013 film 'The Wolf of Wall Street,'" the Journal wrote.
The sovereign-wealth government fund was initially set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 to drive the country's economy, eventually raising $13 billion in debt. As much as $6 billion of that went missing, however.
"Hundreds of millions of dollars of it was diverted into Mr. Najib's own bank accounts in Malaysia ahead of important elections, according to bank transfer documents reviewed by the Journal and people familiar with investigations in two countries," the newspaper wrote.
Another individual implicated in the investigation is Najib's stepson Riza Aziz, who runs runs Hollywood production company Red Granite Pictures. Aziz, a collector of rare movie paraphernalia, allegedly used at least $50 million of the money in question to buy real estate in both New York City and Los Angeles.
"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," the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
"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."
Read the full story here.