Convicted felon and ex-stockbroker Jordan Belfort, whose autobiography became The Wolf of Wall Street, is belatedly suing the film’s producers, claiming he was shocked to discover the ‘criminal’ source of the financing.
Claiming production company Red Granite misrepresented itself as a legitimate business operation funded by “high net worth individuals and entities” in order to con him into selling his book and story rights, Belfort insists he was “completely blindsided” to learn the company was actually funded by money stolen from the Malaysian government, he alleged in the suit filed Thursday in Los Angeles superior court. Specifically, producer Riza Aziz was using Red Granite to launder hundreds of millions of dollars embezzled from Malaysia’s central development bank by his stepfather Najib Razak, and it was these “tainted, illegal and illicit” funds that brought “The Wolf of Wall Street” to the big screen.
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The former Stratton Oakmont stock scammer maintains that “had he known” Red Granite was financing his film with ill-gotten gains, “he certainly never would have sold the rights.” Now, the suit laments, “such rights are forever contaminated by the illicit funding used by Aziz and Red Granite.” Mired in legal proceedings that have Aziz facing 25 years in prison on money laundering and corruption charges, the production company can hardly fulfill its contractual obligations to Belfort — specifically, the obligations to make a second film.
Belfort is suing Red Granite and Aziz, along with 10 unnamed associates, for at least $300 million plus lawyers’ fees, alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, as well as RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act violations — a law typically leveled against organized crime. The convicted money launderer wants to have the contract voided so he can shop his second book, “Catching the Wolf of Wall Street,” elsewhere — plus a hefty compensation for the pain and suffering of having his name associated with such rank criminality.
The chutzpah wasn’t lost on Red Granite, whose lawyer called the suit “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.” The company has already paid out $60 million to the US Justice Department in a civil suit over the film’s being financed with stolen Malaysian money.
Belfort claimed in a 2017 interview with FINews that he knew just months after selling the rights that he was dealing with scammers, pointing to an absurdly lavish launch party at Cannes on which, he said, “they must have spent $3 million” — before the film had even entered production. “Anybody who does this has stolen money,” he supposedly told his wife at the time — but the thought apparently didn’t bother him enough to try to stop the production back then.
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Belfort, who is now a motivational speaker, served 22 months in prison on fraud and money laundering charges following his 1999 conviction and was ordered to pay $110 million in reparations to customers he had swindled with his pump-and-dump stock scam. Despite the resounding success of the film in 2013, he dragged his feet so much in making the restitution payments that he somehow owed $128 million five years later. Belfort recently claimed he had paid back all the money he owed.
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