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When The Wolf of Wall Street last year became engulfed in the multibillion-dollar Malaysian corruption scandal, the irony of a film about a major real-life financial fraud allegedly being funded by another wasn’t lost on anyone, least of all its original author.
Jordan Belfort, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2013 film about his own illegal activities that would lead him to spend 22 months in prison, has now said that he sensed something fraudulent about production company Red Granite right from the start.
“If you look at the movie, for instance: the movie’s a huge success, and then it turns out the guys who financed it were criminals. And this guy Jho Low,” he said in an interview with finews.com. “Leo [DiCaprio] got sucked in. Leo’s an honest guy. But I met these guys, and said to Anne [Koppe, Belfort’s fiancee and business partner], these guys are f—ing criminals.”
Low, the controversial Malaysian businessman at the heart of the scandal, didn’t have a role within Red Granite, but was a long-term associate of its co-founder Riza Aziz, the stepson of the prime minister of Malaysia Najib Razak. Both were named in a major U.S. Justice Department complaint issued in July that alleges hundreds of millions were siphoned from the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund into, among other things, the production company’s accounts.
Belfort also discussed the now-notorious Cannes party in 2011 where Red Granite announced The Wolf of Wall Street.
“They flew me to Cannes four or five months after they bought the movie, and they wanted to announce it in Cannes,” he said. “It hadn’t even gone into production yet, and they threw a launch party. They must have spent $3 million on a launch party. They flew in Kanye West, and I said to Anne, this is a fucking scam, anybody who does this has stolen money.‘ You wouldn’t spend money you worked for like that.”
Also in the Justice Department complaint are allegations that 1MDB money was used during a gambling trip in Vegas, a trip Belfort says he was invited to attend.
“They offered me money and everything to go to Vegas. A lot of money. Like $500,000, which I really could’ve used. I was like, I can’t do it. Leo went, Margot [Robbie] went,” he said. “I refused to go. And because of that I’m not mentioned in the articles. I’ve learned my lesson. It’s all Red Granite. They tried to offer me money and give me things, I never even spoke to these guys. I was like, ‘I don’t need these f—ing people.’ I knew it, it was so obvious.”
Red Granite — which recently wrapped production on the Charlie Hunnam-starring Papillon remake — offered a statement following July’s complaint asserting that, to its knowledge, “none of the funding it received four years ago was in any way illegitimate,” adding that it was cooperating with all inquiries and was confident Aziz and Red Granite would be proved to have done “nothing wrong.”
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