A movie about guys using inappropriately acquired funds for lavish parties and private jets may have had more inspiration than just Wall Street itself. The federal government filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday against the makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, saying the production company used illegally appropriated money from the Malaysian people to pay for the film, as well as other perks.
The U.S. Department of Justice is looking to seize $1 billion in assets, which was the amount of money that went through the U.S. banks. In actuality, the department claims Red Granite Pictures used a portion of more than $3.5 billion in Malaysian money to pay for the movie and the lavish lifestyle that came with making it.
The money reportedly came from the 1Malaysia Development Bhf, or 1.M.D.B. for short, a fund set up by Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak to fund international projects, with profits promised back to the Malaysian people. Instead, the money was sectioned off to different companies and financiers to pay for projects like The Wolf of Wall Street, whose production team just happened to be co-founded by Razak’s step-son Riza Aziz. The movie cost $100 million to make, which was about 10 times more expensive than the production studio’s previous film.
The lawsuit also says Aziz and at least two other financiers wired almost $25 million dollars to pay Las Vegas gambling debts, and spent millions on private jets, jewelers and interior designers. The justice department claims the Malaysian people never saw a dime.
“They treated this public trust as a personal bank account,” said U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch.
The justice department is looking to claim “any rights to profits, royalties and distribution proceeds” from The Wolf of Wall Street, which made $392 million in theaters. They’re also looking to claim a hotel, some mansions, condos and three pieces of classic art by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. The department is only seeking funds that went through American banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, and is not looking to file criminal charges yet, at least until after they’ve seized the funds.
This comes at a pretty unfortunate time for The Wolf of Wall Street’s makers, who are currently battling part of a $15 million defamation lawsuit from former Stratton Oakmont executive Andrew Greene, who claimed actor P.J. Byrne played a fictional version of him. The Wolf of Wall Street star Leonardo DiCaprio is expected to testify.
(via USA Today)
Editor’s Note: The article incorrectly identified Leonardo DiCaprio as having played Andrew Greene. P.J. Byrne played a character named Nicky Koskoff who Greene claimed is a fictional version of himself. The post has been edited to reflect this correction.