Jordan Belfort, the infamous ex-stockbroking con artist whose legacy was perpetuated by Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese‘s adaptation of “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013), has filed a US$300-million fraud lawsuit against the film’s production company, Red Granite Productions (RGP).
Belfort sold the story rights to The Wolf of Wall Street, his 2007 memoir, to RGP in 2011 after the company assured him that it was financed by “high net worth individuals and entities, including Goldman Sachs,” as shown in legal files obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
Alluding to previous money laundering charges against the production company’s co-founder and CEO, Riza Aziz, Belfort, 57, filed the suit against RGP, claiming he was unaware that Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street” was instead financed with money stolen from the Malaysian government, according to Variety.
Belfort — an ex-convict himself — accuses Aziz and his company of “tainting” and “damaging” the rights to his life story by funding their highly successful, Oscar-winning movie adaptation with “illicit funds.”
“Belfort was completely blindsided to learn, after the fact, of the source of funding for Red Granite and the film based on his book/story, as Defendants concealed these criminal acts and funding sources from him,” the legal document reads. “Had he known he certainly never would have sold the rights.”
Aziz — the stepson former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, called a disgraced embezzler in Belfort’s lawsuit — was charged with five counts of money laundering last July.
Aziz pleaded not guilty to allegations that he misappropriated $248 million linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (or 1MDB), which U.S. prosecutors have said RGP used to finance three films — “The Wolf of Wall Street”, “Daddy’s Home” and “Dumb and Dumber To” — as reported by Reuters.
1MDB was founded in 2009 by Razak. He was expelled as Malaysia’s prime minister following allegations that he stole more than $4.5 billion from the fund.
To settle a civil suit that sought to seize assets purportedly bought with money stolen from 1MDB, as well as the rights to The Wolf of Wall Street, Red Granite paid the U.S. government $60 million in September 2017.
While Razak was not involved in any of the lawsuits, a number of his close associates, as well as Aziz, were initially named by U.S. investigators back in 2018. Both of them have denied any wrongdoing in the legal matters in question.
With the latest suit against RGP, Belfort is aiming to void the rights deal he made with the company.
Belfort claimed during a finews.com interview in 2017 that upon meeting some of RGP’s executives, he suspected they were “f**king criminals.”
Shortly after selling the rights to The Wolf of Wall Street to Aziz and co., Belfort said RGP threw a multi-million-dollar party ahead of its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
“I said to (my wife) Anne, this is a f—ing scam,” he told the publication. “Anybody who does this has stolen money.'”
“I knew it. It was so obvious.”
Belfort is no stranger to misappropriation of funds, as he was the co-founder of Stratton Oakmont, the Long Island, N.Y.-based brokerage house that ceased operations in 1996, three years before its “pump and dump” stock fraud scandal was exposed to the public.
The now-motivational speaker served 22 months in prison after he was convicted of fraud and money laundering in 1999. Additionally, he was forced to shell out more than $110 million of the money he had conned out of several stock buyers.
In a statement provided to the BBC, RGP attorney Matthew Schwartz responded to Belfort’s lawsuit, calling it “nothing more than a desperate and supremely ironic attempt to get out from under an agreement that for the first time in his life made him rich and famous through lawful and legitimate means.”
— With files from Reuters