Feds Seize Properties Acquired By 'Wolf Of Wall Street' Producer With Allegedly Laundered Funds
The U.S. Department of Justice has finalized a settlement with Malaysian film producer Riza Shahriz bin Abdul Aziz, who has been accused of fraud, that specifies that Aziz relinquish any claims to $60M in real estate and other assets.
Aziz, who co-founded Red Granite Pictures in Los Angeles, is best known as a producer of the Martin Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street, which was released in 2013. The Justice Department alleges that Aziz used funds embezzled from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and then laundered the money to acquire the properties.
The 1MDB funds were alleged to have passed from two Swiss bank accounts of Good Star Limited and Aabar Investments PJS Limited to the U.S. bank account of Red Granite Productions, as well as to a Red Granite Capital Ltd. bank account in Singapore, Intellasia reports.
1MDB is a development fund overseen by the government of Malaysia. The fund has been the focus of a much wider scandal since 2015, when the prime minister of Malaysia at the time, Najib Razak, was accused of looting the fund to the tune of $700M. Aziz is the stepson of Razak, who lost power in a subsequent election and was convicted of various graft-related crimes in July.
The properties Aziz acquired include one nicknamed the Pyramid House in Beverly Hills, a penthouse in the Park Laurel tower in Manhattan and a posh townhouse in London. Non-real estate assets, which Aziz is also relinquishing claim to, include $28M in cash, a jet, artwork and a vintage 1927 lithograph poster depicting the film Metropolis. Aziz also allegedly spent 1MDB funds on throwing lavish parties.
Aziz does not admit guilt to any of the charges of embezzlement, as part of the settlement with the U.S. government. He previously faced embezzlement charges in Malaysia, but prosecutors dropped the charges as part of a deal that saw Aziz return $107M in assets, Variety reports.
The proceeds from the sale of these assets by the federal government will be used “for the benefit of the people of Malaysia after deduction of the government’s associated costs,” the Justice Department said.
Counting this settlement and related forfeiture cases, the United States will have recovered, or assisted in the recovery of, nearly $1.1B in assets linked to the plundering of 1MDB, the Justice Department said. The Justice Department filed suit to seize the assets beginning in 2016 after the 1MDB scandal broke in Malaysia.