Remember the 1MDB scandal? Besides the many allegations of embezzlement totalling billions of public money, one unforgettable saga was the implication of a certain Red Granite Pictures.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the production house came from out of nowhere to finance multiple high-budget Hollywood blockbusters in the late 2010s, namely The Wolf of Wall Street, Friends With Kids, and Dumb and Dumber To.
Indeed, it’s co-founders Joey McFarland and (and former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s stepson) Riza Aziz even got a shoutout from Leonardo DiCaprio when he received his 2014 Best Actor Golden Globe for his role in the former.
Well, earlier this year – under new management – 1MDB, alongside three of it’s subsidiaries, filed a writ of summons at the Malaysian High Court, alleging that a staggering USD248 million were misappropriated from their coffers to Riza, and his two companies Red Granite Pictures, and Red Granite Capital.
“By virtue of his close relationship with both Najib Razak and (1MDB alleged conspirator) Jho Low, it is to be inferred that Riza (Aziz) had actual knowledge that the funds received were misappropriated from 1MDB,” read the Statement of Claim, filed on 9 September.
“(Riza) Aziz did so dishonestly, in that he knew or suspected that the funds being received were misappropriations of the property of 1MDB, and/or he ought not to have turned a blind eye to, or deliberately (did not ask) questions in relation to, the source of the misappropriated funds.”
It was further alleged that 1MDB’s funds were then used by Riza to finance Red Granite Picture’s movie operations, as well as a string of luxury real estate purchases and personal expenses.
The state investment companies sought the recovery of the full sum, plus interest, as well as a court declaration that the defendants be made liable for the USD248 million loot.
In a new update to the case, a defence statement filed by Riza makes the claim that the monies were obtained through loans, and that he had no knowledge of their links to 1MDB.
He alleges that USD10.17 million was borrowed from the Saudi royal family through a company called Alsen Chance Holdings, whereas the other USD238 million were borrowed through what he thought was a subsidiary of the Dubai-based International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) – Aabar Investments PJS (Aabar BVI).
Previous court filings assert that the first sum of money was actually dispersed by Good Star Ltd, a shell company operated by Jho, and that Aabar BVI is also a shell company used by him to siphon 1MDB money.
“At all material times, Alsen Chance had no nexus or connection with the plaintiffs [1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and its subsidiaries]. As such, there was no reason for the defendants to suspect the source of the funds,” read the statement.
Riza claimed that he had even paid back the Alsen Chance loan in full with interest on 31 October this year.
“At all material times, the defendants had no knowledge that Aabar BVI or the directors of Aabar BVI had any nexus or connection with 1MDB and its subsidiaries,” continued the statement of defence.
He also added that he has no knowledge of 1MDB’s business affairs, despite his familial links.
After what seems like years of court battles, this particular 1MDB fight is seemingly approaching an apex. Just don’t forget, there are 5 other multi-billion dollar suits filed by 1MDB, and those don’t seem to be finishing anytime soon.