The Wolf of Wall Street is a story rife with corruption. The story is based on real-life Wall Street broker Jordan Belfort, who made millions of dollars by bilking wealthy investors.
The Wolf of Wall Street is about stolen money and international scandal, but in a strange, layered twist, authorities say the film may have been backed by stolen money and international scandal.
Despite having the power team of Leo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese at the helm, the 2013 film wasn’t having much luck finding backers. According to the Wall Street Journal, it took more than six years to shoot, because production companies were hesitant to take a risk on the heavily R-rated content.
Just when it looked like they might not have any offers, a little-known company called Red Granite Pictures came forward. It had only one movie under its belt, but it coughed up over $100 million to make The Wolf Of Wall Street.
Global investigators are now saying the money used to make the film may have come from a state fund that was delegated to help economic development in Malaysia.
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) April 2, 2016
The state fund is called 1Malaysia Development Bhd (or 1MDB). It was set up seven years ago by the prime minister of Malaysia, Najim Razak.
Prime Minister Razak is the stepfather of Riza Aziz, who is chairman of Red Granite Pictures.
1MDB is now the focus of much attention. It has run up $11 billion in debt, and there are escalating questions in Malaysia about how some of its money was used.
A money trail through Red Granite Pictures, followed by two nations, has been traced to offshore shell companies, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“The story of how The Wolf of Wall Street was financed brings together Hollywood celebrities with a cast of characters mostly known for their connections to the Malaysian prime minister. It detours through parties in Cannes and aboard a yacht, and spending on such embellishments as a rare, million-dollar movie poster and an original 1955 Academy Award statuette.”
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued subpoenas to several people associated with Red Granite Pictures.
— Tessarajan (@Tessarajan) April 2, 2016
A spokesman for the West Hollywood film company said he had no reason to believe anything was out of order.
“Red Granite is responding to all inquiries and cooperating fully.”
The Wolf of Wall Street was not distributed in Malaysia, since the content was too racy to allow distribution there without severe editing.
DiCaprio and Scorsese have not responded to questions about the investigation.
Red Granite Pictures began in 2010 and was founded by Mr. Aziz, 39, and Christopher McFarland, a 43-year-old Kentucky businessman. The two ended up in L.A. and were introduced by a mutual friend, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“…a peripatetic Malaysian businessman named Jho Low, who became a fixture on the party circuit in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York starting in 2009. Mr. Low gained media attention for a lavish lifestyle that brought him into the orbit of celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.”
The report states that Jho Low knew the Malaysian prime minister and had played a part in setting up the 1MDB fund.
“Aziz and McFarland worked for a time out of L’Ermitage Beverly Hills, a luxury hotel owned by a company Mr. Low founded. The aspiring movie moguls later set up an office on Sunset Boulevard that they filled with Hollywood memorabilia.”
Hollywood Reporter published a story in 2014 about how Red Granite Pictures was sued for racketeering by the producers of Dumb and Dumber.
The Wolf of Wall Street grossed $400 million, but the Wall Street Journal said there aren’t indications of any of it being returned to the fund or to Malaysia.
[Image via J. Stone/Shutterstock]