Red Granite Pictures to Pay $60 Million to U.S. Government in Malaysian Corruption Case
The company was part of an extensive Justice Department inquiry into whether funds had been diverted from a Malaysian wealth fund and funneled into Hollywood productions, real estate and luxury goods.
Red Granite Pictures, the producer behind The Wolf of Wall Street, Dumb and Dumber To and other films, has agreed to pay $60 million to the U.S. government in order to settle allegations that it was funded in part by money siphoned from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund called 1 Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB.
Red Granite was co-founded in 2010 by Riza Aziz, the stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and Joey McFarland, previously an investor in a talent brokerage company.
Following a lavish launch party in Cannes, the company quickly established itself as major force in the industry with its production of The Wolf of Wall Street, which took in almost $400 million at the global box office. Red Granite would soon find itself embroiled in a scandal involving allegations that the company had helped finance The Wolf of Wall Street with money that had been siphoned off from the 1MDB fund with the help of mysterious Malaysian businessman Jho Low, who had strong links with Razak, Aziz, McFarland and star Leonardo DiCaprio and was given "special thanks" in the film's credits.
In July 2016, the Department of Justice filed the largest forfeiture complaint in U.S. history, citing $1 billion of assets. The assets listed 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; Low's remaining unsold artworks consisting of two Monet oil paintings and a van Gogh pen and ink sketch; plus all future profits from Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio was referenced in the filings as "Hollywood Actor 1."
Further Red Granite films were later brought into the complaint, including 2014's Dumb and Dumber To and 2015's Daddy's Home, both major box office successes and both accused in 2017 by the DoJ of being financed by Red Granite using funds linked to 1MDB.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Red Granite said, "We are glad to finally put this matter behind us and look forward to refocusing all of our attention back on our film business.”
Since the 1MDB scandal erupted, Red Granite has only produced one film, the remake of 1973 classic Papillon, starring Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek. The film – which has been picked up by Bleeker Street for the U.S. – bowed in Toronto last year to mixed reviews.
Although Aziz is still listed as Red Granite chairman (and McFarland as vice-chairman), he hasn't been seen in the U.S. for two years and is believed to have gone back to Malaysia. Video footage has shown Aziz in the background of state visits made by his stepfather, Prime Minister Razak.