Red Granite opposes delay in DoJ suits over 1MDB-linked assets

Red Granite lawyer Matthew Schwartz.
Red Granite lawyer Matthew Schwartz.

PETALING JAYA: Red Granite Pictures Inc has joined other parties in questioning the move of the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) to put on hold civil forfeiture lawsuits against assets purchased with funds allegedly embezzled from 1MDB.

The Hollywood Reporter (THR), in an article yesterday, said the financier of the Oscar-nominated Wolf of Wall Street was already in discussions with the DoJ over the source of funds for a few of its projects.

“Red Granite remains hopeful that its role in these cases will be resolved, and that there will be no need to litigate this action.

“In the event that a negotiated resolution is not imminent, however, Red Granite has a strong interest in clearing its name promptly,” the company stated in a brief opposing the delay, according to the showbiz industry publication.

On Aug 10, DoJ officials asked a judge in Los Angeles to put on hold civil forfeiture lawsuits for fear it would interfere with a criminal investigation into alleged money laundering involving the funds in question.

An FBI agent had warned in the court filing that information disclosed in the civil cases may reveal “potential targets and subjects of the investigation and the investigative techniques that have been and will be used in the investigation”.

A lawyer for Red Granite however said that no discovery requests have yet been made by the DoJ and that “it is difficult to imagine how any investigation could be harmed by disclosure of the underlying evidence”.

Aside from the Wolf of Wall Street, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and was directed by Martin Scorsese, other movies which were said to be funded with money linked to 1MDB are Daddy’s Home, starring Will Ferrell, and Dumb and Dumber To (Jim Carrey).

Red Granite lawyer Matthew Schwartz also said that the DoJ’s request was “without precedent and a violation of his clients’ due process rights”.

On Monday, it was reported that the other parties who stood to lose various assets in the DoJ’s civil suits argued that the US government had tried to keep the claimants from appearing in the case for many months in an attempt to secure forfeiture of the properties by default.

The three sets of documents dated Sept 18, had appeared in the California Central District Court’s electronic court system on Monday.

The three motions are for the DoJ’s suit seeking the forfeiture of the Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills property, a separate suit for all business assets related to the property, and a third suit seeking the forfeiture of royalties owed by EMI Music Publishing Group North America Holdings Inc to JW Nile (BVI) Ltd, JCL Media Ltd, and/or Jynwel Capital Ltd.

All three were filed by the same group of lawyers.

Jynwel Capital is a Hong Kong-based company owned by Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, who is better known as Jho Low.

The lawyers for the parties involved argued that the DoJ’s request was unconstitutional and “improperly broad”.

“The government’s overbroad and extraordinary request for a stay of indeterminate duration, during which time the defendant’s assets would remain in limbo, should be denied,” the lawyers said in the filings.

They too wanted the DoJ to prove how the investigation process and other actions taken under the civil suit, would affect investigations or prosecution. The lawyers also wanted the stay on proceedings to be time-limited instead of indefinite as it was now.

In court filings in California, in June, the DoJ said it was seeking to seize US$540 million (RM2.3 billion) in assets including art works, jewellery, a yacht worth US$165 million, and film rights purchased with funds allegedly embezzled from 1MDB.

It followed the civil forfeiture suit by the DoJ in July last year, which sought to recover all the assets including but not limited to the Park Lane hotel in New York, a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, condominiums in New York, a private jet, expensive works of art, aside from the movies.

The total value of the assets sought by the DoJ stands at US$1.8 billion (RM7.7 billion).

DoJ stay on civil suits a delaying tactic, say Jho Low’s lawyers