Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street told the true story of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker and master fraudster who was sentenced to 22 months in prison after pleading guilty to money laundering and securities fraud. The film was a wild ride showcasing corruption, cons, and crime that was almost too over-the-top to be true—and now the real-life Belfort is providing the world with a lawsuit that shows the sequel might be just as wild.
Belfort, who was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, has sued the producers of the film for fraud. Belfort isn’t suing the Hollywood legends behind the film, like Scorsese, or DiCaprio himself, however, but a man named Riza Aziz and his production company Red Granite Pictures. Mr. Aziz sounds like a character out of a movie like, well, The Wolf of Wall Street.
Belfort’s 2007 book, also titled The Wolf of Wall Street, spent many years in development hell before the rights were purchased by an upstart production company called Red Granite Pictures, headed by Aziz. The company had only one other credit to their name, the comedy Friends with Kids. After Wolf of Wall Street, the company’s only other film of note was Dumb and Dumber To – which was also the subject of a lawsuit against Red Granite.
Where did this company, and Aziz, get money to do all of this and where did they go? This is where it gets interesting and a bit crazy.
Aziz is deeply connected, it would seem, to a major scandal in Malaysia, the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal. That scandal revolves are around then-Prime Minister Najib Razak diverting nearly $700 million dollars from a strategic government fund meant to develop real estate into his own bank accounts. Oh and Razak? He’s Riza Aziz’s stepfather.
The 1MDB scandal, as it’s been called, has had global repercussions, and Aziz was arrested in connection to it in Malaysia last summer. He has pled not guilty to charges of corruption. But uh … good luck with that.
Now, Belfort is suing Aziz and partners, along with Red Granite, for $300 million, alleging claiming that Belfort “is significantly damaged by Red Granite’s tainting of his book/story rights, coupled with Red Granite’s inability and/or refusal to exploit and maximize the rights acquired from Belfort as required by contract, due to the highly publicized scandal and amid the allegations of their direct involvement.”
Isn’t this a case of the pot calling the kettle a con-artist?
Belfort claims he “had no indication that Red Granite was funded by illegal proceeds, and planned to use those illicit funds to exploit the rights acquired from him. Had he known, he certainly would have never sold the rights…” But that doesn’t appear to be true. Belfort stated on the record that when he met Aziz and co., “I met these guys, and said to Anne, these guys are fucking criminals.'” I guess it takes one to know one?
Aziz’s legal team for their part are not letting the irony of this suit go either: “Jordan Belfort’s lawsuit is 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,” they say. But … it doesn’t look like everything was quite so legal.
However this goes, I hope Scorsese has the rights to the sequel.
(via: Entertainment Weekly, image: Paramount)
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