Did you think the most criminal act with which fair Leonardo DiCaprio could be associated was letting Rose kick him off that floating door that totally had room for two people? Well, in a plot twist too perfect to script, the DiCaprio-starring The Wolf of Wall Street, a movie about the hyperbolic depravity and greed of finance bros, is being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Federal investigators filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday alleging that a portion of the funding for The Wolf of Wall Street was acquired illegally. Of the $3.5 billion in stolen funds the government claims was used to finance the film, the Justice Department aims to seize a cool $1 billion, the portion that went through American banks. No criminal charges yet, said U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, but she’d like to get her hands on those assets ASAP.
From whom did the fraudulent investors steal those billions? The Malaysian people, apparently: The whole thing hangs on an investment fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad, which was started by the Malaysian government with the rather lovely aim of helping Malaysian citizens. In theory, 1MDB (not to be confused with IMDB) would invest in projects all over the world, and profits from those projects would, in turn, go back to the Malaysian people.
However, in the sort of scheme the corporate Slytherins of Wolf of Wall Street would have pulled, that’s not exactly what happened. Federal agents claim that billions of those dollars were scooped up by financiers. As Lynch put it at a press conference, those corrupt hustlers “treated this public trust as a personal bank account.” CNN Money reports that, on Thursday, authorities in Singapore announced they had seized $177 million in assets after conducting an investigation of their very own into 1MDB.
The budget for Wolf of Wall Street topped over $100 million and made nearly four times that. But according to Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell says, “The Malaysian people never saw a penny of profit of that film.”
Much of that budget came from Red Granite Pictures, a Hollywood production company. Have you ever heard of Red Granite Pictures? Apparently, nobody has. The involvement of some no-name production company in a big-name film raised eyebrows from the start.
Millions of the profits from Wolf of Wall Street allegedly went to such important charitable causes as the Las Vegas gambling debts of a few named financiers: Jho Low, who the lawsuit claims used shell companies to funnel assets into his own pockets by way of shell companies; head of Red Granite Pictures Riza Aziz; and Khadem Abdullah al-Qubaisi, who used to be managing director of the International Petroleum Investment Company.
Where else did these upstanding gentlemen spend their siphoned cash? The lawsuit lists such expenditures as private jet rentals ($5.3 million), yacht rentals ($2.7 million), interior design ($2.2 million), and jewelry ($3 million).
1MDB used Goldman Sachs to raise the money for official projects to benefit Malaysia — then corrupt financiers would divert funds to shell companies, according to investigators. For example, 1MDB partnered with PetroSaudi International to invest $1 billion in energy interests in Turkmenistan and Argentina. Instead, the suit alleges, $700 million ended up in a Swiss bank account owned by a shell company — that was managed by yet another shell company — controlled by Low.
Goldman Sachs made more than $192 million in fees by underwriting $3.5 billion in bonds, according to the U.S. government. Much of this money allegedly went through accounts at JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC) and other American banks, giving federal agents jurisdiction to investigate.
No comment from the Justice Department on whether Goldman Sachs is under investigation and — no surprise here — Goldman Sachs’ comment is that nobody on their side was aware of any corruption going down whatsoever, no siree, because of course they would never do such a thing.