KUALA LUMPUR: More trouble may be brewing for Red Granite Pictures over its latest movie Papillon, a big-budget remake of the 1973 prison-escape classic.
This is because the US Department of Justice (DoJ) appears to now be going for movies funded by profits from The Wolf of Wall Street and other films – produced by Red Granite – which were originally made with money allegedly stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Red Granite was co-founded by Riza Aziz and Joey McFarland.
The Hollywood Reporter (THR) has raised the question of whether Papillon might meet the same fate of Red Granite’s earlier three movies The Wolf of Wall Street, Dumb and Dumber To and Daddy’s Home.
The DoJ has already filed forfeiture suits in US courts seeking the rights to the three movies, claiming they had been funded by money stolen from 1MDB.
The new Papillon stars Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek in the roles made famous by Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, respectively, with Michael Noer directing.
The movie, which is now in post-production, has secured international distributors but is still looking for a US distributor.
THR asked: “Will the DoJ broaden its filings again to allege that diverted 1MDB funds were also transferred into the Papillon accounts?
It said, when contacted by THR, a DoJ representative declined to comment.
Hunnam told THR in February that he had been aware of the scandal surrounding Red Granite before he signed on for the film. “Once I was confident that there was nothing illicit involved in the financing of (Papillon), I felt it was none of my business what they had or hadn’t done in the past,” he was quoted as saying.
In a statement last year, Red Granite said that, to its knowledge, none of the funding it had received was “in any way irregular or illegitimate”. It said the company was “confident that when the facts come out, it will be clear that neither Riza Aziz nor Red Granite has done anything wrong”.
However, THR noted that the DoJ claimed proceeds from the distribution of Dumb and Dumber To were used to finance Daddy’s Home. Money also came from a loan from Morgan Stanley, which was raised thanks to a previous loan with Union Bank that had been “secured with distribution proceeds owed to Red Granite Pictures from its production of The Wolf of Wall Street”.
THR said: “Effectively, the DoJ appears to now be going after an asset not directly linked to 1MDB funds, but something financed by the profits made from assets that are.”
It warned that if the DoJ were to find that any of Papillon’s funding originated from revenues of Wolf of Wall Street, Dumb and Dumber To or Daddy’s Home, Papillon could also appear to qualify for inclusion in the record-breaking forfeiture claim.
Last July, the DoJ filed a suit to seize the rights to The Wolf of Wall Street as part of a record-breaking US$1 billion (RM4.29 billion) forfeiture claim of assets allegedly bought with money laundered from 1MDB.
This June 15, it filed suits to claim more assets said to have been bought or funded by 1MDB money. This includes the rights to Dumb and Dumber To and Daddy’s Home held by Red Granite Pictures.
According to the DoJ, “tens of millions of dollars in funds diverted from 1MDB” were used to make Dumb and Dumber To.
The DoJ asserts that the money is traceable to an initial tranche of US$238 million in wire transfers made into Red Granite accounts held by Aziz and also used to fund The Wolf of Wall Street, with around US$21.5 million sent into the account of the Dumb and Dumber To.
The DoJ claims that between November 2014 and June 2015, “over US$30,000,000 in funds traceable to diverted 1MDB proceeds” was funnelled into Daddy’s Home, accounts.
According to THR, The Wolf of Wall Street, Dumb and Dumber To and Daddy’s Home combined raked in just below US$805 million worldwide for a company that “only burst onto the scene – via a rather glitzy Cannes launch party, no less – in 2011”.