The production company behind The Wolf Of Wall Street has agreed to pay $76 million to the US government, to settle a claim that they benefited from a massive scheme of corruption involving misappropriated funds from Malaysia.
The deal between Red Granite Pictures and US Justice Department prosecutors, approved on Friday in a Los Angeles court, represents part of an attempt to claw back an alleged $1.3 billion taken from a Malaysian investment fund.
The settlement comes as part of the largest ever action undertaken by the Justice Department to recover the proceeds of foreign bribes, and is connected to the ongoing scandal involving misused funds from Malaysian development fund 1MDB.
The fund was originally set up in 2009, to boost the Malaysian economy and turn Kuala Lumpur into an international trade hub, but it has since become embroiled in scandal, with allegations that it was run as a money-laundering scheme to benefit various top officials.
It is alleged that close to $700 million from the fund can be traced to personal bank accounts of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, although he has consistently denied any personal involvement and has pledged to “fully co-operate” with investigators.
The Prime Minister’s stepson Riza Aziz is the co-founder and chairman of Red Granite Pictures, and it has been alleged that $155 million of 1MDB funds were diverted to help finance The Wolf Of Wall Street, amongst other movies.
In a statement following this week’s settlement, Red Granite Pictures merely said that they are happy to put the matter behind them in order to focus on film-making.
In addition to funding films, 1MDB funds were reportedly used to purchase high-end properties in Manhattan, Beverly Hills and London, as well as other lavish items like a $35 million jet, a $260 million yacht and artworks by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet.
Various celebrities have also been personally caught up in the scandal – last year, Miranda Kerr gave back millions of dollars in jewelry received as gifts from a Malaysian financier, while Leonardo DiCaprio returned an Oscar that had been won by Marlon Brando.