Life imitating art? The million dollar scandal emerging from The Wolf of Wall Street
It grossed approximately US$400 million and garnered five Academy Award nominations, but the heady decadence of The Wolf of Wall Street pales in comparison to the scandal now emerging - one that involves not only Hollywood heavyweights, but US investment bank Goldman Sachs and, most bizarrely, the Prime Minister of Malaysia's stepson.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that Malaysian state fund 1MDB, which was set up by the Malaysian Prime Minister and purports to support local economic development, actually funded over $100 million of the movie's production costs. The FBI is investigating 1MDB, along with production company Red Granite and Goldman Sachs, which was involved in 1MDB's administration and helped to raise $6.5 billion for the fund.
How did a Malaysian state fund become at all affiliated with an R-rated Hollywood film helmed by Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio? The film's racy content made it difficult to find investors, taking six years to get off the ground before Red Granite Pictures stepped in, providing over $100 million - even though it had only ever produced one movie.
This is where it gets dodgy - the chairman of Red Granite is none other than the Malaysian Prime Minister's stepson, Riza Aziz. According to The Wall Street Journal, it appears IMDB money was moving out of Malayisa via Red Granite, which was using it not only to fund The Wolf of Wall Street, but to support the extravagant lifestyles of Aziz and his friend, notorious New York property investor Low Taek Jho, who moves in circles including DiCaprio and Paris Hilton.
Red Granite also forked out roughly $600,000 on Marlon Brando's Oscar statue as a birthday gift for DiCaprio three months after shooting began, and six months after its release, the trio - DiCaprio, Aziz and Low - lived it up aboard a Saudi-owned, 482-foot yacht and attend the World Cup in Rio together.
The scandal first came to light when 1MDB's $11 billion debt raised questions within Malaysia, triggering investigations from authorities around the world, including the FBI. Goldman Sachs now faces a congressional hearing into its dealings in Malaysia, with the bank's South East Asia chairman, Tim Leissner, taking a leave of absence last month, according to The Guardian.
Clearly no-one involved watched the original film - the bad guys always get caught.
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