The U.S. government is looking to seize the rights to the comedies “Dumb And Dumber To” and “Daddy’s Home”, as well as art gifted to Leonardo DiCaprio and jewellery given to Miranda Kerr in a civil forfeiture case, alleging the funding for the films and the gifts of art to the actor were purchased with stolen Malaysian funds.
On Thursday, the U.S. government filed a forfeiture case against Red Granite Pictures, seizing the rights to “Dumb And Dumber To” and “Daddy’s Home” which the company produced. The U.S. asserts that the movies were produced with millions of dollars in funds traced to high-ranking corruption and embezzled funds from within the Malaysian government.
Last year, a similar claim was brought against the production company run by CEO Riza Aziz – the stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak – with regard to “The Wolf Of Wall Street” and the misappropriation of funds that went “to fund the co-conspirators’ lavish lifestyles, including purchases of artwork and jewellery, the acquisition of luxury real estate and luxury yachts, the payment of gambling expenses, and the hiring of musicians and celebrities to attend parties,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Aziz is under scrutiny over $238 million diverted into production accounts for Red Granite’s films. The feds also have their eye on several items of movie memorabilia, including rare posters and artwork they suspect were purchased with the ill-gotten funds.
A rare movie poster of the 1927 silent film “Metropolis” that was purchased by Aziz for $1.2 million in October 2012 is also being eyed by investigators as are several pieces of art that were gifted to DiCaprio, including a “Picasso painting purchased for $3.28 million, a photograph by Diane Arbus purchased for $750,000, and a Jean-Michel Basquiat collage purchased for $9,191,040,” The Hollywood Reporter claims.
DiCaprio both starred in the Martin Scorsese film and acted as an executive producer on “The Wolf Of Wall Street”.
The Picasso painting is said to have come with a personal note to the actor from a high-ranking Malaysian financier, stating, “Dear Leonardo DiCarpio [sic], Happy belated Birthday! This gift is for you.”
The government is also looking to seize a reported 11.72-carat heart-shaped diamond given to Australian model Miranda Kerr by the same financier.
Last year, DiCaprio voluntarily surrendered Marlon Brando’s Best Actor Oscar to the U.S. government after learning it was under contention. The so-called “lost statuette” was awarded to the late Brando for his lead role in 1955’s “On The Waterfront” and was purportedly given to DiCaprio as a gift for his 38th birthday by Red Granite who purchased it for a reported $600,000.
An Oscar bylaw forbids any post-1951 honorees or any person who inherits a statuette to sell or gift it in any way without first offering it back to the Academy for $10. Brando reportedly never sold his award, it simply went “missing” while the actor was still alive.
DiCaprio quickly distanced himself from the ongoing embezzlement investigation and is cooperating with the government.
A rep for the actor tells The Hollywood Reporter: “Last July, upon hearing of the government’s civil action against certain parties involved in the making of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, Mr. DiCaprio’s representatives – working under his instruction – initiated contact with the Department of Justice. This effort was to determine if there were any gifts or charitable donations originating from the parties named in the civil complaint, and to offer the return of any such gifts or donations with the aid and instruction of the government. Prior to the government’s filing of the civil pleading today, Mr. DiCaprio initiated return of these items, which were received and accepted by him for the purpose of being included in an annual charity auction to benefit his eponymous foundation. He has also returned an Oscar originally won by Marlon Brando, which was given to Mr. DiCaprio as a set gift by Red Granite to thank him for his work on ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. Mr. DiCaprio is grateful for the support of the government in this effort, and continues to hope that justice is done in this matter.”
Red Granite also released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter: “As we have previously disclosed, Red Granite is actively engaged in discussions with the Justice Department aimed at resolving these civil cases and is fully cooperating. In the meantime, Red Granite remains an active production company, moving ahead to complete post production work on its next feature film while developing exciting new projects.”