KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – A producer of Hollywood hit The Wolf of Wall Street is willing to testify against his stepfather, Malaysia’s disgraced ex-leader Najib Razak, over a massive graft scandal, a court heard yesterday.
The news came just days after charges were unexpectedly dropped against producer Riza Aziz, who was accused of illegally receiving huge sums from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
Billions of dollars were looted from the fund and spent on everything from a yacht to art in a huge fraud that purportedly involved Najib and his cronies.
Najib lost power in 2018 in large part due to public anger at the 1MDB scandal, and has since been put on trial.
Riza’s charges were shelved in exchange for him agreeing to hand over more than USD100 million in assets to Malaysia, but there was widespread anger that he had escaped a jail term.
There was a new twist in the drama yesterday, however, as one of Najib’s trials resumed at the Kuala Lumpur High Court following a lengthy break due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Riza Aziz has indicted his willingness to give evidence for the prosecution in the case,” lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram told the court before proceedings began.
The case is the most significant of several that Najib, who denies wrongdoing, is facing. It centres on allegations that he illegally received more than USD500 million from 1MDB. Riza’s mother Rosmah Mansor, who is married to Najib, became a lightning rod for public anger during her husband’s time in office due to her love of overseas shopping trips and vast collection of handbags.
She is also on trial for corruption. Riza had been accused of receiving USD248.17 million in 2011 and 2012 in illegal proceeds that came from 1MDB, which was sent to bank accounts of his Hollywood production company Red Granite Pictures.
Aside from The Wolf of Wall Street, which was about a huge financial scam and starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Red Granite also produced Dumb and Dumber To and Daddy’s Home.
Some were suspicious the decision to drop charges against Riza was linked to a recent change in government that saw Najib’s party return to power. But the new prime minister has insisted he did not interfere in the case.