It took years for Leonardo DiCaprio and Marin Scorsese to make “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the 2013 adaptation of the book by former stock broker Jordan Belfort that highlighted his debauched exploits and the illegal actions that led to him going to prison for fraud.
But according to a piece in The Wall Street Journal, global investigators believe much of the movie’s $100 million budget was diverted from a Malaysian state fund that was established to spur local economic development.
Investigators in two countries believe that 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, which was set up seven years ago by the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, moved $155 million into Red Granite Pictures, one of the production companies behind “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Razak’s stepson, Riza Aziz, is the chairman of Red Granite Pictures. The company was set up in 2010.
The FBI has issued subpoenas to several current and former employees of Red Granite and a bank and accounting firm the company used, according to The Journal.
The way Red Granite Pictures, a company that had financed only a few independent films before “Wolf,” got involved in the passion project of the biggest actor in the world involves encounters that could have come from the pages of Belfort’s book.
- Andrew H. Walker/Getty
According to The Journal, Red Granite came on the Hollywood scene at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011, when it threw a million-dollar beach party that included fireworks and performances by Kanye West and Pharrell Williams.
Soon after, Jho Low, a Malaysian financier who was a fixture in the LA, Las Vegas, and New York party scenes with the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan (and would play a role in setting up the fund that became 1MDB), connected DiCaprio with Red Granite.
Red Granite, founded by Aziz and Joey McFarland, strengthened the bond with DiCaprio after cameras began rolling on “Wolf of Wall Street,” when they gave the actor Marlon Brando’s Oscar for best actor in “On the Waterfront” as a birthday present. According to The Journal, it was acquired for around $600,000 from a New Jersey memorabilia dealer.
Aziz and Low were also with DiCaprio, “Wolf” costar Jonah Hill, and actor Jamie Foxx to ring in the new year on December 31, 2012, where they partied in Australia and then rented a jetliner and flew to Las Vegas to celebrate again, according to The Journal.
Then six months after “Wolf” opened in theaters, DiCaprio, Aziz, and Low attended the World Cup in Brazil and spent time on the Topaz, a 482-foot yacht owned by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chairman of the Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth fund IPIC. (According to The Journal, Sheikh Mansour wasn’t there).
- Andreas Rentz/Getty
Red Granite’s main financier is Abu Dhabi businessman Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny. At the time of the making of “Wolf” Al-Husseiny headed Aabar Investments PJS, an arm of IPIC that did business with 1MDB.
In 2012, 1MDB reported in corporate filings that it sent $1.4 billion to Aabar Investments as collateral.
Investigators believe the money never got to Aabar and instead went to a separate, almost identically named company that Al-Husseiny helped set up in the British Virgin Islands, called Aabar Investments PJS Ltd.
According to The Journal story, $155 million of the $1.4 billion to Aabar flowed to Red Granite Capital, a firm Aziz formed to fund the film company. From a loan agreement reviewed by The Journal, $50 million was to fund “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The loan has been repaid.
Investigations of 1MDB will not affect Red Granite’s ability to develop projects, according to The Journal.