Feds: Laundered Cash Financed Wolf of Wall Street
DOJ accuses Malaysian officials of stealing $3.5B
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2016 1:10 AM CDT
Prime Minister Najib Razak, possibly "Malaysian Official 1" or "The Wolf of Kuala Lumpur."   (AP Photo/Joshua Paul, File)
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(Newser) – The financing of The Wolf of Wall Street was "a case of life imitating art," prosecutors say—with shady Malaysian officials standing in for Leonardo DiCaprio's stock-swindling character. On Wednesday, the Justice Department accused Malaysian officials of plundering more than $3.5 billion from the country's 1MDB economic development fund and using the proceeds to finance the Hollywood movie and pay off gambling debts, as well as to buy luxury US real estate, hotels, a $35 million jet, and art, including works by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, NBC News reports. The feds, who accuse officials of defrauding the Malaysian people "on an enormous scale," are trying to seize around $1 billion in assets that were bought using money laundered through American banks.

"In seeking to seize these forfeited items, the Department of Justice is sending a message that we will not allow the United States to become a playground for the corrupt," says Eileen Decker, the US attorney in Los Angeles, per the AP. "And we will not allow it to be a platform for money laundering or a place to hide and invest in stolen riches." A civil lawsuit has been filed but not criminal charges. The Wall Street Journal notes that the case, which is the largest ever handled by the Justice Department's anti-corruption unit, is likely to cause a confrontation between the US and Malaysian governments, especially since sources say the "Malaysian Official 1" referred to 32 times in the complaint is none other than Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. (Earlier this year, Malaysia's attorney general claimed there was nothing fishy about a $681 million "gift" mysteriously transferred to Razak's accounts.)