Allegations of lavish spending to curry favour with film star Leonardo DiCaprio, including expensive gifts for him, have been given in a US class action suit brought against Red Granite Pictures, Riza Shahrir Abdul Aziz and Low Taek Jho (better known as Jho Low).
The suit was filed on Thursday in a US district court in New York, and was brought by lawyer Matthias Chang, former political secretary to Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and former PAS vice-president Husam Musa.
Filed on behalf of all Malaysian citizens, they seek damages and the return of property and other assets which they said were bought using money stolen from the government-owned 1MDB.
The suit says money raised through bond offerings by 1MDB were used to fund Red Granite, which financed the film Wolf of Wall Street. Jho Low was given special thanks in the film’s closing credits.
Red Granite was founded in 2010 by Riza, who is the stepson of Prime Minister Najib Razak, and his friend Joey McFarland.
The suit says Red Granite launched itself with a million-dollar beach extravaganza at the Cannes Film Festival in France in 2011, with fireworks and performances by hip-hop artist Kanye West and rapper Pharrell Williams.
More than US$150 million of 1MDB money was believed to have been siphoned into the Red Granite venture, the suit alleges.
It alleges that Riza, Jho Low, and McFarland knew that Red Granite was not funded by legitimate investors but instead with illicitly obtained money.
Among other things, the suit alleges that they spent the money on:
- a poster for the 1927 movie Metropolis, worth more than US$1 million;
- a birthday party for Leonardo DiCaprio in August 2012, with more than US$1 million on alcohol, most of it on US$25,000-a-piece bottles of champagne.
- Marlon Brando’s 1955 Academy Award statuette for Best Actor, reportedly purchased for US$600,000;
- New Year’s Eve celebrations in both Australia and Las Vegas on December 31, 2012, which included the charter of a private jet;
- A trip to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil by Riza, Jho Low, and DiCaprio, who stayed on board a rented 482-foot yacht named the Topaz.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) had on July 20 said that more than US$3.5 billion was diverted from the 1MDBfund that Najib founded in 2009 shortly after coming to power.
The US civil suits are seeking to seize US$1 billion of the allegedly embezzled assets that were transferred into the United States using shell companies. The assets include several Beverly Hills mansions, a hotel, penthouse apartments in New York, a private jet, several works of art, and other assets.
The DoJ also wishes to seize the future earnings of the film Wolf of Wall Street, which has reportedly earned US$390 million at the box office, and continues to earn royalties from television and other sources.
The DoJ also alleged offences were committed over a four-year period and involved multiple individuals, including Malaysian officials and their associates, who conspired to fraudulently divert billions of dollars from 1MDB.
It specifically named Riza, Jho Low, and Abu Dhabi government officials Khadem al-Qubaisi and Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny.