PETALING JAYA: The civil corruption case involving 1MDB-mired Red Granite Pictures have been suspended while federal prosecutors conduct a criminal investigation into money stolen from the state investment fund.
Variety reported that prosecutors had filed a motion in federal court, saying they intend to put the civil case on hold as the discovery process could jeopardise the criminal investigation.
“Such disclosures could result in the destruction of evidence, flight of potential subjects and targets, or the identification and intimidation of potential witnesses,” Special Agent Jill Enyart was quoted as saying in the declaration.
She added that the discovery process could also inhibit foreign governments from cooperating with the ongoing probe and “jeopardise the safety of certain foreign law enforcement personnel”, the report said.
It quoted prosecutors who said updates would be provided to the court every six months while the case is on hold.
On July 11, a US federal judge agreed to the appointment of an independent financial overseer at Red Granite Pictures after allegations that it had used funds embezzled from 1MDB to produce at least three films: “The Wolf of Wall Street”, “Daddy’s Home”, and “Dumb and Dumber To”.
The US is reportedly seeking to seize Red Granite’s portion of the proceeds from those films as part of a broader effort to recoup funds allegedly stolen from 1MDB.
Red Granite, whose CEO Riza Aziz is the stepson of Prime Minister Najib Razak, maintains that it did not knowingly take stolen funds, according to a separate report by Variety.
News broke earlier today that the US is conducting a criminal investigation into money stolen from 1MDB that was allegedly used to buy more than US$1 billion in real estate and other assets.
US Department of Justice (DoJ) officials also asked a judge in Los Angeles to put on hold civil forfeiture lawsuits against assets acquired by Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, because pursuing these may have “an adverse effect” on its ability to conduct the criminal investigation.
In its civil cases, the US alleged that from 2009 through 2015, more than US$4.5 billion belonging to 1MDB was diverted by high-level officials of the fund and their associates.
Najib, who until last year was the chairman of 1MDB’s advisory board, has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by Malaysia’s attorney-general.