'Wolf of Wall Street' producer charged with laundering $248M in Malaysian scandal

"The Wolf of Wall Street" producer Riza Aziz was charged on Friday with laundering $248 million from state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB.

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Riza, the stepson of Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak, pleaded not guilty. He became the third person in his family to be charged in the 1MDB scandal that helped end Razak's government last year.

His charge sheets said the money was misappropriated from 1MDB and channeled into bank accounts of Riza's company Red Granite Pictures Inc., which produced films including “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The 2013 film, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture. Other movies the company produced include “Horns” in 2013, “Dumb and Dumber To” in 2014, “Daddy’s Home” in 2015 and “Papillon” in 2017.

The money was transferred from Swiss bank accounts of two companies U.S. investigators identified as being linked to 1MDB into Red Granite's accounts in the U.S. and Singapore between 2011 and 2012, according to the charge sheets describing the evidence.

Riza, 42, was released on bail. He was charged with five counts of money laundering and could face up to five years in prison, a fine or both, on each count if he is convicted.

"The Wolf of Wall Street" producer Riza Aziz, was charged on Friday with laundering $248 million from state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB. He is the third person in his family to be charged in the scandal. (AP Photo/Vincent Thia

Najib set up the 1MDB fund to finance development in Malaysia when he took office in 2009, but it accumulated billions in debts and U.S. investigators allege at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib's associates.

Public anger over the alleged corruption contributed to the shocking election defeat of Najib's long-ruling coalition in May 2018, and the new government reopened investigations that had been stifled while Najib was in office.

Najib is currently on trial for alleged criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering linked to 1MDB. He denies the charges. His wife and Riza's mother, Rosmah Mansor, also has pleaded not guilty to money laundering and tax evasion related to 1MDB but her trial date has not been set.

Riza's arraignment came a year after he was questioned by Malaysia's anti-graft agency. U.S. investigators say Red Granite used money stolen from 1MDB to finance Hollywood films. Red Granite has paid the U.S. government $60 million to settle claims it benefited from the 1MDB scandal, and the U.S. returned the money to Malaysia.

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Riza's sister, Nooryana Najwa, has slammed the legal action against her brother.

"Despite the settlement in the U.S. and the fact that alleged wrongdoings occurred entirely outside of Malaysia, the MACC decides to press charges after a whole year of leaving this case in cold storage. He is not a criminal," she wrote on Instagram, accompanied by a picture of her with Riza taken before his arrest.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.