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Rosmah Mansor, the former Malaysian first lady and the mother of Riza Aziz, the founder of Red Granite Pictures and producer of The Wolf of Wall Street, has been charged with 17 offenses — including money laundering — as part of ongoing investigations into Malaysia’s multibillion-dollar 1MDB corruption scandal.
The 66-year-old — dubbed the “Imelda Marcos of Malaysia” for her vast collection of designer handbags and jewelry — was arrested Wednesday by anti-graft authorities and charged Thursday. She pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. Should she be convicted of money laundering, Rosmah could face up to 15 years imprisonment and fines of more than five times the value of the proceeds from the crime.
Rosmah left the court in Kuala Lumpur after paying a quarter of the $483,000 bail with her husband, disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak, a figure seen as one of the central cogs in the 1MDB scandal, in which U.S. authorities estimate that more than $4.5 billion was illegally siphoned out of the country from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund. Najib, who suffered a shock election defeat in May after nine years in power, is facing 32 charges of money laundering, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust.
Rosmah’s son, Riza Aziz, is alleged by the Department of Justice to have used 1MDB money to set up Red Granite Pictures alongside Joey McFarland, finance the 2013 hit The Wolf of Wall Street and purchase a number of multimillion-dollar properties in the U.S. He has faced extensive questioning by Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission.
Meanwhile, Jho Low, the flamboyant Malaysian financier accused of orchestrating much of the criminal activities relating to 1MDB, is currently evading extradition and is believed to be hiding in China. A newly published book, Billion Dollar Whale, detailing how Low managed to pull off possibly the biggest financial crime of all time, was recently optioned, with Michelle Yeoh set to produce the film.
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