July 5, 2019 / 3:05 AM / 15 days ago

'Wolf of Wall Street' producer charged with 1MDB money laundering in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia on Friday charged one of the “Wolf of Wall Street” film producers, and stepson of former prime minister Najib Razak, with money laundering, alleging he misappropriated $248 million linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Riza Aziz, stepson of former Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, arrives at a court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia July 5, 2019. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

Riza Aziz, a co-founder of Hollywood production firm Red Granite Pictures that was behind the Oscar-nominated film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” was charged with five counts of money laundering.

Prosecutors alleged Riza received a total of $248 million as a result of misappropriation of 1MDB funds.

Riza pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Each charge carries a financial penalty of up to five million ringgit ($1.21 million), a maximum jail term of five years, or both.

The court granted Riza bail at one million ringgit and asked him to surrender his passports.

After unexpectedly losing an election to Mahathir Mohamad in May last year, Najib has been slapped with a series of corruption charges, mostly tied to losses at now-defunct 1MDB.

Najib, who founded 1MDB in 2009, faces 42 criminal charges related to huge losses at the fund and other state entities. He has pleaded not guilty and has consistently denied wrongdoing.

The U.S. Justice Department has estimated that a total of $4.5 billion was misappropriated by high-level officials at 1MDB and their associates between 2009 and 2014.

1MDB is being investigated in at least six countries for alleged money laundering and graft.

U.S. prosecutors have said Red Granite had financed three films using funds they suspect were stolen from 1MDB.

Red Granite paid the U.S. government $60 million in September 2017 to settle a civil forfeiture claim over the rights to “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

($1 = 4.1340 ringgit)

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Michael Perry

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