Embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s stepson Riza Aziz allegedly spent at least $50 million — from a corruption-ridden state fund — on luxury properties across New York and Los Angeles, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday citing documents and sources. The 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund, set up by Najib in 2009, has been at the center of a corruption scandal involving the prime minister.
A film producer by profession, Aziz used 1MDB funds to buy a 7,700-square-foot, $33.5 million duplex in the Park Laurel condominium tower overlooking New York’s Central Park, the Journal reported. Aziz also allegedly bought an 11,000-square-foot walled mansion in Beverly Hills with a 120-foot pool for over $17.5 million. The properties are being probed to find out their financing.
FBI investigators, who are probing 1MDB’s corruption and money laundering allegations in the U.S., believe that the money used to buy the New York and Los Angeles properties was part of at least $238 million transferred to offshore company Red Granite Capital, of which Aziz is a full owner.
Aziz, who is one of the producers of the Oscar-nominated movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” has denied any wrongdoing. The Journal had reported that Aziz’s film company received $155 million in loans from 1MDB, much of which went to finance the movie.
“There has never been anything inappropriate about any of Red Granite Pictures or Riza Aziz’s business activities,” a spokesman for Aziz’s film company told the newspaper. “What they have done and will continue to do is develop and produce successful and acclaimed movies that have generated more than $825 million in world-wide box-office revenues.”
The spokesman also said that Red Granite “is responding to all inquiries and cooperating fully.”
Najib, who set up 1MDB in a bid to bolster economic growth in Malaysia, has been linked to the 1MDB corruption scandal, in which $681 million from the fund was traced to his personal bank accounts. Like Aziz, the prime minister allegedly spent about $15 million on luxury items from his personal bank accounts that investigators believe came from the indebted fund.
Allegations against Najib were first made in a July 2015 report by the Journal, which said that investigators tracked the money from an account at Falcon Private Bank in Singapore to accounts in Malaysia. Najib has consistently denied the allegations.
Last month, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said the kingdom’s $681 million donation to Najib was “genuine.” Al-Jubeir said that Saudi officials were aware of the donation and it was made without accepting anything in return. Malaysia’s Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali thoroughly investigated the case and did not find the donation to be unlawful, the Saudi minister added.