Bloomberg: Riza Aziz’s ex-partner surrenders ‘King Kong’ poster, Basquiat painting, gifts worth US$14m over US 1MDB probe

Ben Tan
Riza Aziz stands with Joey McFarland, another producer of the film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, as they arrive at the 25th Annual Producers Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles January 19, 2014. — Reuters pic

PETALING JAYA, July 16 — Hollywood producer Joey McFarland who co-founded Red Granite Pictures with Riza Aziz will forfeit US$14 million (RM64 million) in artwork, luxury items and company profits to the US Justice Department’s (DoJ) anti-kleptocracy investigation linked to 1MDB.

According to Bloomberg, the items McFarland will surrender include a vintage French King Kong poster, a Jean-Michel Basquiat drawing, and several luxury watches allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds.

McFarland agreed to hand over the items he was gifted by Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, the alleged mastermind behind the theft of billions of dollars from the 1MDB fund, and his accomplices, according to a filing yesterday in a Los Angeles federal court.

Bloomberg reported McFarland, who co-founded Red Granite Pictures with former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s stepson, as pleading ignorance to the fact that the items were bought with embezzled 1MDB funds.

Red Granite was mooted by Riza, but McFarland — who left the company late last year — was drawn into an international scandal when it was alleged that cash to fund the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio had been siphoned from the 1MDB state fund.

According the US forfeiture complaint, Riza spent at least RM22.2 million on collectible movie posters to cover the walls of his condominium in New York with them.

He also gave a number of them to McFarland, DiCaprio and also US director Martin Scorsese, according to the DoJ.

Among the posters McFarland agreed to return are ones for Fritz Lang’s 1931 German film M, the 1956 science fiction classic Forbidden Planet and Cool Hand Luke from 1967.

Riza has been charged in Malaysia with money laundering and using stolen 1MDB funds at Red Granite.

His stepfather, Najib, is also facing dozens of money laundering and corruption charges linked to 1MDB while his mother, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, is on trial over the same offences but not related to the Malaysian investment firm.

Red Granite previously paid the US government US$60 million as a settlement to end the investigation into its role from the 1MDB scandal.

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