Malaysia drops 1MDB money laundering case against ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ producer

The US has returned or assisted Malaysia with recovering around $600 million from the sale of assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds. (AFP)
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Updated 14 May 2020

Malaysia drops 1MDB money laundering case against ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ producer

  • Riza Aziz is co-founder of Red Granite Productions that was behind the 2013 Oscar-nominated film
  • Red Granite paid the US government $60 million in September 2017 in settlement

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian prosecutors on Thursday dropped a $248-million money laundering case against a producer of Hollywood film “The Wolf of Wall Street” and the stepson of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, citing a deal for an undisclosed amount of funds to be paid to the government.
Riza Aziz, the co-founder of Red Granite Productions that was behind the 2013 Oscar-nominated film, was charged with five counts of money laundering last year over allegations that he had received $248 million misappropriated from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
US and Malaysian authorities say about $4.5 billion was looted from 1MDB, co-founded in 2009 by then-premier Najib.
A sessions court judge on Thursday ruled that the charges against Riza would be withdrawn without acquittal, after prosecutors said they had reached a deal which would see the government receiving “a substantial sum running into several million ringgit.”
“The sums have direct reference to the subject matter of the charges framed in this case,” lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram told the court, according to a copy of his statement made available to Reuters.
Gopal said steps would be taken to ensure a full acquittal for Riza upon completion of the deal.
Riza’s lawyer Hariharan Tara Singh declined to comment, saying he was not at liberty to disclose the terms of the settlement.
The US Department of Justice has said Red Granite financed three films, including “The Wolf of Wall Street,” using funds they suspect were stolen from 1MDB.
Red Granite paid the US government $60 million in September 2017 to settle a civil forfeiture claim over the rights to the films.
The United States has returned or assisted Malaysia with recovering around $600 million from the sale of assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds.
After losing an election to Mahathir Mohamad in 2019, Najib has been slapped with 42 criminal charges tied to losses at now-defunct 1MDB and other state entities. He has pleaded not guilty and has consistently denied wrongdoing.
Najib told Reuters in March, days after Mahathir unexpectedly resigned amid political turmoil, that he now expected an atmosphere more conducive to a fair hearing.
The case has also led to scrutiny of Goldman Sachs, which Malaysia has accused of misleading investors over bond sales totaling $6.5 billion that the bank helped raise for 1MDB. Three units of the bank have pleaded not guilty.


UK vaccine frontrunner could be available in first half of 2021

Updated 19 min 14 sec ago

UK vaccine frontrunner could be available in first half of 2021

  • Human trials of the vaccine will expand to hundreds more people in the “coming weeks.”

LONDON: A leading British scientist has said a Covid-19 vaccine could be rolled out across the country as early as the first half of next year.

Professor Robin Shattock leads the team working on Imperial College London’s vaccine, one of the UK’s two most promising research programs. He told Sky News: “We anticipate if everything goes really well, that we'll get an answer as to whether it works by early next year.

“Assuming that the funding is there to purchase that vaccine, we could have that vaccine rolled out across the UK in the first half of next year.”

Shattock also warned that there was “no certainty” that any of the vaccines currently being developed would work, but said the risk of that is “very, very low.”

Imperial College London is now conducting human trials of their vaccine, with 15 volunteers having received it so far. Shattock said this will be ramped up in the “coming weeks” to include another 200 to 300 patients.

“I think we're very lucky in the UK that we have two very strong candidates, the one from Imperial, the one from Oxford, and so we’re pretty well placed, but there's still not a certainty that either of those two will work,” he said.

Oxford University is also developing a vaccination for Covid-19, in partnership with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

While Shattock said he hopes Imperial College London’s vaccine will be available for the whole of the UK in the first half of next year, it is unclear how long it would take for it to be available outside of the country.

The UK, European Union and the US have all invested huge sums into vaccine development, and struck deals with pharmaceutical companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars each to ensure first-in-line access to successful vaccinations.

However, international organizations such as the UN, International Red Crescent and Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders have raised concerns that the world’s poorest countries will be unable to access vaccinations and effective Covid-19 treatments due to rich countries outspending them.