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New US suit filed to recover 1MDB funds
Published:  Aug 13, 2016 7:38 PM
Updated: Aug 23, 2016 3:57 AM

Dr Mahathir Mohamad's former political secretary Matthias Chang has joined forces with Salor state assemblyperson Husam Musa to file a class action suit in the United States against individuals linked to 1MDB.

The class action suit is seeking damages for the theft of the state investment firm's funds as well as to recover assets acquired using the stolen funds.

It was brought on behalf of the Malaysian citizenry and was filed on Thursday with the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Chang and Husam named Red Granite Pictures, the film production and distribution company's co-founders Christopher Joey McFarland and Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, who is also Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's stepson, as defendants.

According to the court filing, Chang and Husam claimed the defendants knowingly used funds stolen from 1MDB for their personal benefit, including throwing parties for Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio to curry favour with him.

Also named as defendants were Malaysian billionaire Jho Low and his tax attorney Debra Whelan Johnson as well as her firm Metropolis IX Capital Advisors LLC.

Goldman Sachs Group and its former banker Timothy Leissner were also named.

The plaintiffs alleged these individuals and entities were involved in transactions that aided the theft of 1MDB's funds.

The plaintiffs are seeking relief for the following:

  1. An award of actual damages;
  2. Restitution and/or restitutionary disgorgement of profits wrongfully obtained by the defendants;
  3. An award of treble damages in an amount to be proven at trial for prosecuting this action under RICO (Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organisations) and California Penal Code Section 496(c);
  4. An award of punitive damages sufficient to deter and make an example of defendants;
  5. An award of plaintiffs' costs and expenses of this action; reasonable attorney's fees, and pre- and post-judgement interest as provided by law; and
  6. Such other and further relief as the court may deem just and equitable.

The class action suit relies heavily on the facts laid out in a separate civil suit on the 1MDB matter brought by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) last month.

The DOJ in its July 20 suit claimed that at least US$3.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB and moved to forfeit US$1 billion in assets acquired through the stolen money.

However, the latest court action made some new claims including against Red Granite Pictures.

"In November 2012, Red Granite threw a birthday party for Leonardo DiCaprio. Red Granite spent more than one million dollars on alcohol, most of it on US$25,000-a-piece bottles of champagne.

"DiCaprio received something more lasting as well: Marlon Brando's 1955 Academy Award statuette for Brando's performance as Best Actor. Red Granite reportedly purchased the statuette for US$600,000 from a New Jersey dealer.

"Neither the party nor the gift to DiCaprio benefited 1MDB in any way. Rather, defendants gave the gift to curry favour with DiCaprio and burnish their celebrity credentials," read the document.

The filing also noted that Red Granite's office contains rare and valuable Hollywood memorabilia, including a 1927 Metropolis movie poster worth more than US$1 million.

The Hollywood Reporter said Red Granite Pictures declined to comment over the latest suit.

It previously denied knowingly using stolen funds for its productions.

The filing was signed by Louis F Burke and Thomas R Ajamie who are acting as counsel for the plaintiffs.

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