Hollywood producer charged with money laundering in Malaysia

A Malaysian court on Friday charged Riza Aziz, the producer of Hollywood blockbuster “The Wolf of Wall Street” and also the stepson of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, with money laundering, allegedly involving $248 million misappropriated from the 1MDB state fund.

The co-founder of Hollywood’s Red Granite Pictures, Riza, 42, pleaded not guilty to the five charges of money laundering at Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court, Efe news agency quoted the state-run Bernama news as saying.

The court set bail at RM1 million (nearly $242,000) and asked him to surrender his passports.

Charge sheets allege that five payments of amounts varying from just over $1.17 million to $133 million were transferred through Switzerland to accounts belonging to Red Granite Productions Inc in Los Angeles, and Red Granite Capital Ltd in Singapore during 2011-2012.

The charges, made under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001, each carry penalties of a fine of up to RM5 million, a jail term of up to five years, or both.

Riza was arrested on Thursday.

US prosecutors have in the past accused the production company of diverting $155 million in funds from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to finance “The Wolf of Wall Street”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese.

In 2018, Red Granite Pictures agreed to pay $60 million to end a civil lawsuit driven by the US government, money that was later returned to Malaysia.

Corruption of the 1MDB state fund contributed to the fall of Najib, who was defeated in the May 2018 elections and has since been charged with 42 counts of money laundering and abuse of power.

Najib’s wife and Riza’s mother, Rosmah Mansor, is also charged in relation to 1MDB.

The 1MDB corruption scandal was revealed in 2015 by an investigation carried out by The Wall Street Journal and the Sarawak Report that revealed the diversion of RM2.6 billion ($681 million at the time) to Najib’s private accounts.

Najib has claimed that the money was a donation from a Saudi prince.

(IANS)