Dept. Of Justice Claims ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ Was Financed With Stolen Money

It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie starring, perhaps, Leonardo DiCaprio, and yet it’s real life: the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit this week claiming that fraudsters stole $3.5 billion from the Malaysian people, and moved some of that money through U.S. banks to buy luxury hotels, yachts, a jet, and to produce the movie The Wolf Of Wall Street.

In its suit [PDF] filed Wednesday, the U.S. government is seeking to seize $1 billion in assets, which it claims is how much went through American banks.

According to the suit: an investment fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB [not to be confused with IMDB]) was started by the Malaysian government to benefit its people. 1MDB was suppose to invest in projects around the world and then bring those profits back to Malaysia.

That’s not what happened, the DOJ claims in its lawsuit, and instead, billions from that fund were diverted by corrupt well-connected financiers, including money that went toward making The Wolf of Wall Street, a 2013 movie starring DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorcese that’s all about obtaining great wealth by shady means.

“This is a case where life imitated art,” said US Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell at a press briefing.

Among the assets the government is trying to seize:

1. Any profits from The Wolf of Wall Street: The DOJ wants “any rights to profits, royalties and distribution proceeds” from The Wolf of Wall Street, which made $392 million, according to comScore. The suit says more $100 million of the pilfered money allegedly went into the production of the movie.

2. Swanky hotels, condos, and mansions: The luxury hotel L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills and its assets are on the list of forfeitures the DOJ wants, as well as a $30.5 million Time Warner Penthouse in New York City. There are also a scattering of mansions and luxury condos in both Los Angeles and NYC.

3. Expensive art: A pen and ink drawing titled “La maison de Vincent a Arles” by Vincent Van Gogh valued at $5.5 million; and paintings by Claude Monet entitled “SaintGeorges Majeur” and “Nympheas avec Reflets de Hautes Herbes” valued at $92.5 million total are also on the list.

4. A $35 million private jet: Not only does the government want a Bombardier jet with two Rolls Royce engines, it also wants all “appurtenances, improvements, and attachments thereon, all aircraft logbooks, and all leases, rents, and profits derived therefrom.”

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that funds were also used to pay for “luxurious lifestyles” enjoyed by one of the defendants and his associates, including $85 million wired to Las Vegas casinos, luxury yacht rental companies, business jet rental vendors, a London interior decorator, and associates and family members of the defendant.

“Of course, neither 1MDB or the Malaysian people saw a penny of profit from that film or the other assets purchased with funds ­siphoned from 1MDB,” Caldwell said. “Instead, that money went to relatives and associates of the corrupt officials of 1MDB and others.”

[via New York Post]

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