US Returns $57m Hollywood Money To Malaysia

Millions of dollars forfeited by the company behind the Leonardo DiCaprio film “Wolf of Wall Street” have been sent to a Malaysian account set up to recover money looted in a massive state fraud, officials said on Tuesday.

Billions of dollars were stolen from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, allegedly by ex-prime minister Najib Razak and his cronies in a crime that stretched around the world.

The US Department of Justice is in the process of seizing assets it says are linked to the scandal.

It has now transferred funds that were handed over by Red Granite Pictures, the Hollywood production company behind the 2013 film about a massive stock market scam that netted its perpetrator millions of dollars.

Malaysia’s attorney-general Tommy Thomas said the money represented “the first installment of funds recovered from asset seizures related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)”.

The funds, totalling $57.04 million, were sent to an account specially set up to receive recovered 1MDB funds, he said in a statement.

US prosecutors allege that the film company, co-founded by Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, was funded by money stolen from 1MDB.

In 2017 Red Granite agreed to settle a US civil lawsuit against it for $60 million. About $3 million was deducted to cover costs before the funds were returned, Thomas said.

As well as “The Wolf of Wall Street”, Red Granite also produced the Jim Carrey hit “Dumb and Dumber to” and “Daddy’s Home”, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.

Prosecutors had made claims for profits generated by all three films as part of their case.

The DoJ is also in the process of returning a further $139 million of looted funds that came from the sale of a stake in the Park Lane Hotel in New York, Thomas said.

It was bought by Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, who was accused of playing a central role in plundering 1MDB, he said.

Low is also believed to have bought a luxury yacht with about $250 million of looted cash.

The scandal played a major role in Najib’s election loss last year. Malaysia’s new government has re-opened probes into 1MDB, and Najib has been arrested. He went on trial last month over the allegations.

AFP

Dinosaurs Are Cool, Trendy, Objects Of Decoration – Expert

The skeletons two Jurassic age (161-145 million years) dinosaurs, a Diplodocus (back) and an Allosaurus (front) are displayed on April 6, 2018, before being auctioned on April 11 at the Drouot auction house in Paris. PHOTO: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

 

Some experts are of the view that Dinosaurs skeletons are trendy objects of decoration and also alluring when used in home decorations.

“Dinosaurs have become cool, trendy — real objects of decoration, like paintings,” the Italian expert told AFP, citing Hollywood actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicolas Cage as fans of such outsize prehistoric ornaments.

This is just as the skeletons of an allosaurus and a diplodocus are up for auction in Paris this week, marketed as hip interior design objects — for those with big enough living rooms.

“The fossil market is no longer just for scientists,” said Iacopo Briano of Binoche et Giquello, the auction house that is putting the two dinosaurs under the hammer on Wednesday.

Cage, however, did hand back the rare skull of a tyrannosaurus bataar, a close cousin of T. rex, that he bought in 2007 after it was found to have been stolen and illegally taken out of Mongolia.

Dinosaur bones are increasingly gracing collectors’ cabinets, with another huge skeleton, that of a theropod, expected to fetch up to 1.5 million euros ($1.84 million) when it goes up for auction in June.

Chinese buyers

“For the last two or three years the Chinese have become interested in palaeontology and have been looking for big specimens of dinosaurs found on their soil, for their museums or even for individuals,” Briano said.

The new buyers are now bidding against multinational corporations as well as ultra-rich Europeans and Americans, the “traditional” buyers of dinosaur skeletons, Briano added.

In 1997, McDonald’s and Walt Disney were among donors stumping up $8.36 million to buy Sue — the most complete and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever found — for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

“Millions of people come to see it, it’s incredible publicity for companies,” said Eric Mickeler, a natural history expert for the Aguttes auction house.

Palaeontologists acknowledge that many fossils that go on the block are of limited scientific interest, but important specimens do go up for auction and can, as in Sue’s case, be bought through acts of patronage.

The market remains small and “isn’t for everybody”, Mickeler said.

Only around five dinosaurs are put up for auction around the world every year.

 ‘People like the teeth’

The allosaurus which goes on sale Wednesday, among 87 lots of natural artefacts, is considered “small” at 3.8 metres (12.5 feet) long.

It is expected to fetch up to 650,000 euros, while the diplodocus — despite being bigger at 12 metres long from nose to tail — has a guide price of 450,000 to 500,000 euros.

Carnivores like the allosaurus often fetch more than herbivores.

“People like the teeth,” Mickeler said.

The price also goes up if the skeleton shows traces of a fight or an incurable illness, as well as if it is considered rare, has a high percentage of verified bones, or a particularly impressive skull.

“We recently sold a very beautiful piece to a Venetian family, they have a magnificent big room in which the dinosaur is perfectly at ease,” Briano said.

But Ronan Allain, a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum of Paris, denounced “completely nonsensical” prices.

“It’s the luxury world, it’s not for people like us,” he said.

“We could decide to buy it pre-emptively, but for the theropod, for example, that would mean shelling out more than a million,” he said.

AFP

U.S. Moves To Seize Dicaprio’s Picasso

U.S. authorities moved on Thursday to seize a Picasso painting given to American movie star Leonardo DiCaprio and the rights to two Hollywood comedies.

They filed complaints to recover about $540 million they say was stolen from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad sovereign wealth fund.

The U.S. Justice Department filing was the latest legal action tied to alleged money laundering at the fund set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 to promote economic development.

In the complaints, the department alleges more than $4.5 billion was taken from 1MDB by high-level fund officials and their associates.

Najib has denied taking money from 1MDB or any other entity for personal gain, after it was reported that investigators traced nearly $700 million to bank accounts that were allegedly in his name.

The assets U.S. authorities are seeking to seize include the rights to “Dumb and Dumber To,” a 2014 comedy starring Jim Carrey, they allege was financed with tens of millions of dollars stolen from 1MDB, and the 2015 film “Daddy’s Home” starring Will Ferrell.

Last year, U.S. authorities moved to seize rights to the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which starred DiCaprio.

The three films were produced by Red Granite, a company founded by Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz.

Red Granite said in a statement which was in discussions with the Justice Department “aimed at resolving these civil cases and is fully cooperating.”

U.S. authorities accuse Jho Low, a Malaysian financier, of laundering more than $400 million stolen from the fund through an account in the United States, where he and his friends used the money to pay for lavish parties, gambling and yachts.

Despite the civil allegations, U.S. authorities have not charged Low with any crime.

Low did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to his Hong Kong-based company Jynwel Capital.
Authorities said that in 2014 Low used $3.2 million diverted from a 1MDB bond sale to buy a Picasso painting for DiCaprio.

“Dear Leonardo DiCaprio, Happy belated Birthday! This gift is for you,” a friend of Low’s wrote in a note.

A spokesman for DiCaprio said in an emailed statement on Thursday the actor last July “initiated the return” of gifts he had received from financiers connected to the 1MDB case.

The spokesman said DiCaprio also returned a Oscar won by actor Marlon Brando.

That was given to DiCaprio by Red Granite “to thank him for his work on The Wolf of Wall Street,” the statement said.

DiCaprio’s spokesman said the star accepted the gifts to raise funds in an auction for his environmental foundation.

Oscars 2016: Full List Of Winners

Oscar AwardsLeonardo DiCaprio was named best actor at the 88th Academy Awards (Oscars), with Brie Larson named best actress for ‘Room’ while Mad Max: Fury Road was the big winner in the technical categories.

Full List of Winners

Best Picture
Winner: Spotlight
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room

Best Actor
Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Matt Damon – The Martian
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

Best Actress
Winner: Brie Larson – Room
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Christian Bale – The Big Short
Tom Hardy – The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara – Carol
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

Best Director
Winner: Alejandro Inarritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner: The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian
Room

Best Original Screenplay
Winner: Spotlight
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Straight Outta Compton

Best Animated Film
Winner: Inside Out
Anomalisa
Boy and the World
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

Best Foreign Language Film
Winner: Son of Saul – Hungary
Embrace of the Serpent – Colombia
Mustang – France
Theeb – Jordan
A War – Denmark

Best Animated Short
Winner: Bear Story
Prologue
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

Best Cinematography
Winner: The Revenant
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
Sicario

Best Costume Design
Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road
Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
The Revenant

Best Documentary Feature
Winner: Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Best Documentary Short
Winner: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Body Team 12
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
Last Day of Freedom

Best Editing
Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Big Short
The Revenant
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Live Action Short
Winner: Stutterer
Ave Maria
Day One
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
Shok

Best Make-up and Hair
Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
The Revenant

Best Original Score
Winner: The Hateful Eight, Ennio Morricone
Bridge of Spies
Carol
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Original Song
Winner: Writing’s on the Wall, Sam Smith – Spectre
Earned It, The Weeknd – Fifty Shades of Grey
Manta Ray, J Ralph & Antony – Racing Extinction
Simple Song #3, Sumi Jo – Youth
Til It Happens To You, Lady Gaga – The Hunting Ground

Best Production Design
Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
The Martian
The Revenant

Best Sound Editing
Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Sound Mixing
Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road
Bridge of Spies
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Visual Effects
Winner: Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Oscars 2016: Leonardo DiCaprio Wins Best Actor

oscarsLeonardo DiCaprio has finally won his first Oscar for survival epic The Revenant, after six nominations.

He was named best actor at the 88th Academy Awards, with Brie Larson named best actress Oscar for Room.

Catholic Church abuse movie “Spotlight” was named best picture, the top award at Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, after a night peppered with punchlines from host Chris Rock about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that has dominated the industry.

In a ceremony where no single movie commanded attention, Mexico’s Alejandro Inarritu nabbed the best directing Oscar for “The Revenant”, becoming the first filmmaker in more than 60 years to win back-to-back Academy Awards. Inarritu won in 2015 for “Birdman.”

“The Revenant” went into Sunday’s ceremony with a leading 12 nominations, and was among four movies believed to have the best chances for best picture after it won Golden Globe and BAFTA trophies.

The ambitious 20th Century Fox (FOXA.O) Pioneer-era tale, shot in sub-zero temperatures, also brought a first Oscar win for its star Leonardo DiCaprio, who got a standing ovation from the A-list Hollywood audience.

“I do not take tonight for granted,” DiCaprio said, taking the opportunity in his acceptance speech to urge action on climate change.

Yet voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose Open Road Films’ (RGC.N) “Spotlight,” which traces the Boston Globe’s 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning investigation of child sex abuse by Catholic priests, for best picture. The movie also won best original screenplay.

“This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope can become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican,” said producer Michael Sugar.

Rising star Brie Larson, 26, took home the statuette for best actress for her role as an abducted young woman in indie movie “Room,” adding to her armful of trophies from other award shows.

Idris Elba Wins Big At SAG Awards

idris elbaBritish actor, Idris Elba, has won for his roles in a detective drama ‘Luther’ and for his supporting role as an African warlord in ‘Beasts of No Nation’ at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards.

The film, about the Boston Globe’s investigation of paedophile Catholic priests, won for best film cast.

But many of the main awards in Los Angeles were won by actors of diverse backgrounds, with industry magazine, Variety, noting that “diversity reigns”.

The awards came amid controversy over a lack of diversity among Oscar nominees.

The female prison series, ‘Orange Is The New Black’ won the ensemble award for a comedy series, and its star Uzo Aduba for best comedy actress in a television series.

The series has earned praise for its diverse cast and willingness to address race issues. Accepting the cast award, actress Laura Prepon referred to her cast mates, saying: “This is what we talk about when we talk about diversity.”

The three main acting awards were given to films with mainly white casts, Spotlight, The Revenant and Room, all of which are among the Oscar favourites.

Other main winners of the SAG Awards include:

Brie Larson (Room) – Best film actress
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) – Best film actor
Queen Latifah (Bessie) – Outstanding performance by an actress in a TV miniseries or movie
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) – Best actor in a television drama series
Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder) – Best actress in a television drama series
Downton Abbey – Best television drama ensemble.