The producers of hit Hollywood film The Wolf of Wall Street have agreed to pay back $60m to the US government after allegations the film was funded with money stolen from a Malaysian state investment fund.
Last year, Red Granite Pictures was implicated in the scandal, in which $3.5bn (£2.5bn) from the government-run 1MDB fund is alleged to have found its way into the bank accounts of associates of Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, to be used for lavish expenses and investments across the world.
Red Granite was co-founded by Riza Aziz, Najib’s stepson. It was alleged to have used misappropriated 1MDB money to fund not only 2013’s Wolf of Wall Street, but also films Dumb and Dumber To, and Daddy’s Home.
The company denied the accusations but according to a California court filing on Wednesday has now agreed to pay the US government in three instalments: $30m within 30 days, $20m within the next 180 days, and the final $10m within 180 days after that.
The settlement stipulates that the payment should not be construed as “an admission of wrongdoing or liability on the part of Red Granite”.
“We are glad to finally put this matter behind us and look forward to refocusing all of our attention back on our film business,” Red Granite said in a statement on the filing.
Red Granite was a relative unknown before it stumped up $100m to help director Martin Scorsese make The Wolf of Wall Street. Three months after shooting began, Red Granite also gave the film’s star Leonardo DiCaprio a lavish birthday gift: the Oscar given to Marlon Brando for best actor in On the Waterfront, worth around $600,000. DiCaprio has since surrendered the statue as part of the 1MDB investigation.
The filing against Red Granite is part of a larger US action to try to reclaim assets worth $1.7bn allegedly bought with 1MDB money.
Much of the 1MDB spending spree on hotels, fine art and yachts was alleged to have been carried out by Jho Low, a friend of Aziz. Low denies all the allegations as does Najib, who instigated an investigation in Malaysia that found no evidence of wrongdoing and resulted in no one being charged.
Najib also alleges that the $681m of cash that ended up in his personal bank account was not from 1MDB but a gift from a Saudi prince.
While the Malaysian government has tried to draw a line under the 1MDB case, US prosecutors have continued to pursue it. Just this week, the super yacht Equanimity – allegedly belonging to Jho Low and bought with 1MDB funds – was seized in Indonesia and is now being handed over to the US department of justice.
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