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U.S. lawsuit: Malaysian PM used stolen funds for Leonardo DiCaprio gifts

By
Elizabeth Shim
Malaysian funds were misappropriated by its prime minister, Najib Razak, to purchase gifts for Hollywood stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, according to U.S. court papers submitted Thursday. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Malaysian funds were misappropriated by its prime minister, Najib Razak, to purchase gifts for Hollywood stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, according to U.S. court papers submitted Thursday. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

June 16 (UPI) -- A Picasso painting, a luxury apartment in Manhattan and the movie rights to Dumb and Dumber To are at the center of a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit that alleges Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stole public funds to benefit himself and family members.

Najib, identified as Official 1 in the Justice Department investigations, may have stolen as much as $4.5 billion from 1MDB, a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund that should have been "used to help the people of Malaysia," according to Sandra Brown, an acting U.S. attorney.

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"Instead, [the fund] was used by a small number of individuals to fuel their astonishing greed," Brown said, the BBC reported.

The Justice Department has so far filed suits to recover more than $1.7 billion of funds that was misappropriated from 2009 to 2015.

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The latest U.S. lawsuit seeks to recover $540 million in assets.

Court papers on Thursday show prosecutors claim the money stolen from government funds were used to buy a pink diamond necklace for Najib's wife, a 300-foot luxury yacht that includes a movie theater and a helipad, and extravagant gifts for celebrities.

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Some of the stolen loot was used to purchase Nature Morte au Crane de Taureau, a painting by Pablo Picasso, presented to Leonardo DiCaprio as a birthday present.

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Red Granite Pictures, a movie production company founded by Najib's stepson, received some of the money to produce Hollywood blockbusters The Wolf of Wall Street and Dumb and Dumber To, the comedy starring Jim Carrey.

The company's lawyer said it is "fully cooperating" with authorities on the case.

DiCaprio was also lavished with other gifts, including photographs taken by Diane Arbus, a collage by Jean-Michel Basquiat, and an Oscar that was once given to Marlon Brando, The Guardian reported.

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Najib's office said the U.S. claims remain unproven but that it would cooperate with any "lawful investigation."

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