The Wolf of Wall Street: back to bite with the 1MDB scandal
Let’s face it – for the better part of the fable, the three little pigs were down on their luck. The big bad wolf huffed and he puffed, and, he blew through the financial system like a house of cards. In the United States, the wolf had a name: Jordan Belfort.
But just when you thought you’d seen the back of the Wolf of Wall Street and the ostentatious world Scorsese brought to the silver screen, it came back to bite. However, this time around, it’s not Belfort wreaking havoc and filling the pages of the world’s press. Rather, it’s an investment fund set up by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak.
The 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund was established in 2009 with the purported aim of advancing the Malaysian state’s economy. Recent reports from the US government, however, suggest $3.5billion was pilfered for personal gain. The Prime Minister’s stepson, Riza Aziz is named, though the Prime Minister’s name is noticeably absent from the report – leading many to speculate whether this was a strategic decision to maintain ties with the Malaysian nation.
The US is not alone in this fight; the Singaporean government has seized $177 million in assets from the 1MDB fund. The fund possesses a wide array of assets including properties in the United Kingdom and the United States, rare and unique fine art pieces by Van Gogh and Monet, and publishing rights for EMI music. In an interesting and perhaps ironic twist of fate, Red Granite Pictures, the production house responsible for The Wolf of Wall Street, was co-founded by its Chairman Riza Aziz (Najib Razak’s stepson). Speculated that money from the fund under investigation was moved into Red Granite Pictures to fund the five-time Oscar nominated film.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has denied any wrongdoing or involvement in misappropriated funds, though it has been suggested that he is easily identifiable as ‘Malaysian Official 1’ named in reports.
In the coming days and weeks, further information will shed light on the implications of these allegations on the entangled web of international financial criminal activity.