Did Money That Was Supposed to Help the Malaysian Economy Instead Go to ‘Wolf of Wall Street?’


Midway through Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), in one of his confiding-to-camera monologues, begins to explain the process of taking an IPO public. Midway through his explanation, he stops himself. “Look, I know you’re not following what I’m saying anyway, right?” he smirks. “That’s okay. That doesn’t matter. The real question is this: was all this legal?” That confusion – and that question – is at the heart of a strange new controversy surrounding the three-year-old Wall Street comedy/drama, which a civil lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice alleges was partially financed by a shady Malaysian state fund.

The suit, reported by the BBC, charges that money from 1MDB (not to be confused with the Internet Movie Database?), a fund set up in 2009 to help develop the Malaysian economy, made its way into the pockets of public officials, and subsequently their relatives and business associates. In addition to properties, business assets, a jet, and works of art, the funds allegedly went into the bankroll of Red Granite, one of the production entities behind the Scorsese picture. The company’s CEO, Riza Aziz, is the stepson of Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.

In a statement Wednesday, the company claims it did nothing wrong. “To Red Granite’s knowledge, none of the funding it received four years ago was in any way illegitimate and there is nothing in today’s civil lawsuit claiming that Red Granite knew otherwise,” the statement read. “Red Granite continues to cooperate fully with all inquiries and is confident that when the facts come out, it will be clear that Riza Aziz and Red Granite did nothing wrong.”

It’ll take some time to figure this whole thing out. In the meantime, some enterprising screenwriter is working up a treatment for a really wacko sequel.