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Prosecutors in the 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial have produced a document they claim reveals a $9 million advance to the producers of the Oscar-nominated The Wolf of Wall Street from a company owned by fugitive businessman Jho Low.
The High Court in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur got a document that showed the transaction, made in September 2012, involved the Red Granite Productions Inc. account at City National Bank Los Angeles and was paid as “advances for Wolf of Wall Street Movie for ACHL,” according to multiple local media reports. The money apparently came from Low’s Good Star Ltd.
Red Granite Pictures was the Los Angeles-based filmmaking outfit responsible for the Martin Scorsese-directed The Wolf of Wall Street, along with Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace and Alexandre Aja’s Horns.
It was founded by Riza Aziz, stepson of disgraced former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, whose case is at the heart of the 1MDB scandal.
Aziz founded Red Granite in 2010 alongside Joey McFarland. Aziz faces five charges of laundering around $250 million out of the 1MDB fund. He faces up to 25 years in prison if found guilty of the charges and is currently out on bail.
Now into its fifth week, the current 1MDB trial is focused on Razak, who faces 42 charges linked to theft of about $4.5 billion from the sovereign wealth fund.
Malaysian media reported that the surprise document was produced last Thursday during lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram’s examination of prosecution witness and former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi.
Halmi said he was aware of what Red Granite was and that he had read that “Red Granite was using money that was allegedly siphoned from 1MDB,” according to media reports.
But Halmi denied having any knowledge of or even having seen a number of documents produced by the prosecution team.
Prosecutors are continuing to lay out their case against Razak, while dates for the trial of Aziz have been tentatively set for Jan. 6-9 and Jan. 13-16.
Razak’s trial continues to add chapters to the ongoing 1MDB saga, which has captured the attention of the world as its reach has spread from Malaysia all the way to Hollywood.
Red Granite has already paid $60 million to settle a claim that financing for The Wolf of Wall Street had come from cash lifted from the sovereign wealth fund.
In July 2016 the Department of Justice filed the largest forfeiture complaint in U.S. history, citing $1 billion of assets alleged to have been funded by the 1MDB theft.
Assets seized included Aziz’s mansion in Beverly Hills and Park Laurel condominium in New York; Low’s Hollywood Hills mansion and Time Warner Center apartment in Manhattan; and all future profits from The Wolf of Wall Street.
The film made $392 million on release in 2013, and it picked up five Oscar nominations, including one for best actor for its lead, Leonardo DiCaprio.
The actor found himself embroiled in the scandal when it was revealed Low had lavished a trove of gifts on him, including a Picasso painting bought for $3.28 million, a Basquiat collage ($9,191,040) and the best actor Oscar won by Marlon Brando for his performance in On the Waterfront. DiCaprio voluntarily surrendered the items to the government.
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