DOJ: Najib’s stepson bought properties, posters using funds diverted to Aabar BVI
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s stepson Riza Aziz had acquired properties abroad and expensive movie posters using funds misappropriated from 1MDB through Aabar BVI, claimed the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).
Apart from properties in the US, Riza also purportedly purchased a property in Belgravia, London, United Kingdom.
The DOJ said Riza purchased the property in July 2012 for US$41.79 million from his businessman friend Jho Low, who purchased it two years earlier using 1MDB funds via his Good Star account.
"(Riza) Aziz paid Low to acquire the Qentas Townhouse using funds traceable to diverted 2012 bond proceeds," said the DOJ in its 251-page third 1MDB-related filing yesterday.
Aabar BVI had purportedly received US$1.367 billion diverted from bonds raised by 1MDB for power purchase agreements in 2012.
Aabar BVI had transferred US$133 million from the 2012 bond proceeds on June 18, 2012 to Riza's Red Granite Capital account at BSI Bank in Singapore.
"On or about June 20, 2012 - approximately two days later - Riza transferred US$58.5 million from his Red Granite Capital account to ‘Shearman IOLA account’ at Citibank,” said the DOJ.
The Shearman IOLA account, it stated, transferred US$43 million from the same funds held on behalf of Riza the next day to an account maintained by Shearman & Sterling’s London office for the purchase of the Qentas Townhouse from Low.
"Proceeds of the sale of the Qentas Townhouse were ultimately transferred to Low and used to acquire an interest in the Viceroy Hotel Group," it added.
Although Riza claimed beneficial ownership of Qentas in his 2012 tax return, that tax return listed a Los Angeles address for Qentas, noted the DOJ.
The London property was not the only one which Riza purchased from Low.
The DOJ claimed that after Low bought a Hillcrest property in Beverly Hills, California in 2010 using funds from 1MDB, the property was transferred to Riza through funds from Aabar BVI.
The 2010 acquisition of the Park Laurel Condominium in New York by Low was subsequently acquired by Riza in 2012 for US$35.5 million compared to Low's purchase of US$23.98 million of the property two years earlier.
‘Obsessed over movie posters’
Apart from this, the DOJ revealed that Riza started collecting limited edition movie posters also in 2012.
The expensive movie posters were similarly bought using funds from Aabar BVI, it alleged.
Riza bought a 1939 "Wizard of Oz" movie poster released the same year for US$75,000 on Oct 16, 2012.
Based on an email dated Oct 8, 2012, the owner of Cinema Archives had told Riza and his company Red Granite Pictures' co-founder Joey McFarland about the “Wizard of Oz” movie poster and that there were supposedly only two copies and the other was owned by Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio.
Thereafter, from either on or about June 11, 2013 to March 11, 2014, the DOJ said Riza had sent at least eight wire transfers totalling US$4.28 million from his Red Granite Capital account to an account at Bank of America held by Cinema Archives for various movie posters and other memorabilia.
This included some 70 items ranging from several thousand dollars to US$400,000.
In October 2012, the DOJ said Riza also purchased a rare 1927 movie poster from Cinema Archives for US$1.2 million using funds from "Alsen Chance account" that were traceable to the 2012 bond proceeds.
"The walls of the Park Laurel Condominium, where Riza lived, are covered in movie posters that Riza acquired using funds from Aabar BVI,” it added.
Both Riza and McFarland had purportedly admitted to being obsessive with purchasing movie posters and memorabilia.
Below is an email exchange beginning on Nov 29, 2013, between Riza, McFarland and the owner of Cinema Archives.
McFarland had started the conversation by sending Riza and the Cinema Archives owner a list of movie posters.
McFarland: "I have decided – I have to own these. Its [sic] a must. Not to mention a 1000 others... Can’t sleep – obsessing.”
Riza: “Hahaha now you feel my pain!! Mwahahahaha – $$$$."
McFarland: "... I’m obsessing over posters... we are such neurotic obsessive creatures ... WE HAVE TO OWN THEM ALL."
Funds transferred from Aabar BVI to Riza's Red Granite Capital account were also used to fund Red Granite Pictures, the film company he co-founded with McFarland.
The company had produced several films such as “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Friends with Kids,” and “Dumb and Dumber To.”
The DOJ said that between June 20, 2012 – two days after Aabar BVI sent its first wire to Red Granite Capital – and Nov 20, 2012, eleven wires totalling US$64 million were sent from the Red Granite Capital account to an account at City National Bank in the US maintained by Red Granite Pictures.
"These funds transferred to Red Granite Pictures in the United States were then used to fund Red Granite Picture’s operations, including the production of the film 'The Wolf of Wall Street',” it added.
Funds sent from Aabar BVI to Red Granite Capital, which was transferred into the US for Red Granite Pictures however did not represent a legitimate investment by 1MDB, International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) or Aabar in Red Granite Pictures, noted the DOJ.
"And balance sheets for Red Granite Pictures and Red Granite Capital show no payments to 1MDB, IPIC, or Aabar indicative of any investment return," it said.