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Anger after Malaysia drops 'Wolf of Wall Street' charges

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia   /   Mon, May 18, 2020   /   05:00 pm
Anger after Malaysia drops 'Wolf of Wall Street' charges Riza Aziz, producer of the Hollywood film 'The Wolf of Wall Street' and stepson of Malaysia's ex leader Najib Razak arrives for a court appearance at Duta court in Kuala Lumpur on July 5, 2019.Malaysian prosecutors on Thursday dropped a $248-million money laundering case against him, citing a deal for an undisclosed amount of funds to be paid to the government. (AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

A deal to drop money-laundering charges linked to the 1MDB scandal against a producer of Hollywood hit "Wolf of Wall Street" is terrible for Malaysia, the country's former attorney-general said Monday.

Riza Aziz, who is also the stepson of the country's disgraced ex-leader Najib Razak, was charged last year for allegedly receiving nearly $250 million from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Billions of dollars were looted from the fund and spent on everything from a yacht to art in a huge fraud that purportedly involved Najib and his cronies.

But last week, Malaysian prosecutors unexpectedly dropped the charges against Riza after he agreed to a deal that will see him return about $107 million in assets to Malaysia. Officials insist Riza can still be prosecuted if he does not honour the agreement.

Many were angered he had avoided a jail term, however, and political rivals have suggested the move was linked to Najib's party's return to power following a political upheaval earlier this year.

Malaysia's former attorney-general Tommy Thomas, who had taken the decision to prosecute the film producer, said the agreement was a "sweetheart deal for Riza but terrible for Malaysia".

The US Department of Justice, which has been helping the Southeast Asian country claw back looted funds, "would have returned these monies in any event because it belongs to Malaysia and was stolen from Malaysia", he said in a statement.

His successor has insisted Thomas agreed to dropping the charges "in principle" -- but he rubbished this as "a fiction".

"I would have never sanctioned this deal," he said.

Riza had been accused of receiving $248.17 million in 2011 and 2012 in illegal proceeds that came from 1MDB.

The money was sent to bank accounts of Hollywood production company Red Granite Pictures, which Riza co-founded.

Aside from "The Wolf of Wall Street", which was about a huge financial scam and starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Red Granite also produced the Jim Carrey movie "Dumb and Dumber To" and "Daddy's Home".

Najib was voted out of power in 2018 in large part due to public anger at the 1MDB scandal, and has since been put on trial over the mammoth fraud. He denies any wrongdoing.

The alliance that ousted Najib, led by 94-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, collapsed in February amid intense infighting.