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Why Is Jordan Belfort, AKA 'The Wolf Of Wall Street,' Claiming To Be The Victim Of Fraud?

Jordan Belfort rose to infamy for scamming people out of their money, as depicted in "American Greed."

By Becca van Sambeck

Jordan Belfort is a name that's practically synonymous with excess wealth and financial deceit. The inspiration for the 2013 movie "The Wolf Of Wall Street," Belfort made millions through stock market manipulation and running a penny stock scam, before pleading guilty to money laundering and securities fraud in 1999. But in a film-worthy twist, Belfort's name has been in the news again recently — as he's put forth a lawsuit claiming he himself has been the victim of fraud.

Belfort is suing Red Granite Pictures, the production company behind "The Wolf Of Wall Street," for $300 million dollars, as seen on the latest episode of CNBC's "American Greed: Biggest Cons," airing Monday, July 27 at 10/9c. Belfort signed over the rights to his two autobiographies, "The Wolf Of Wall Street" and "Catching The Wolf Of Wall Street," to Red Granite in 2011. However, in recent years, Red Granite has been accused of being funded illegitimately, and Belfort now claims he never would have turned over the book rights to a company funded by dirty money.

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Belfort has sued Red Granite for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, violation of the RICO Act, breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"Belfort is significantly damaged by Red Granite’s tainting of his book/story rights, coupled with Red Granite’s inability and/or refusal to exploit and maximize the rights acquired from Belfort as required by contract, due to the highly publicized scandal and amid the allegations of their direct involvement," according to a complaint obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. "Now motivated only by self-preservation, Defendants must distance themselves from Belfort’s 'The Wolf of Wall Street' story, and other rights purchased, for fear that propagating the books/stories will only fan the flames of the criminal charges facing them."

As Ashley Cullins, who works for the Hollywood Reporter, told "American Greed," "This guy went to jail for the events depicted in the movie. It is a little nuts this guy is suing for 300 million dollars and accusing people of fraud when he himself had been to jail for tricking people out of their money."

So, what's the story with Red Granite?

Red Granite was run by Riza Aziz, the stepson of then-Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak. Razak controlled 1MDB, a state fund set up in 2009 to promote foreign investment and partnership. However, Razak is accused of embezzling billions of dollars from the fund, using money that was intended to help Malaysian people to enrich himself. 

Low Taek Jho, aka Jho Low, described as an "unofficial consultant" for 1MDB, allegedly helped Razak funnel $4.5 billion dollars from 1MDB into various funds — including Red Granite. Aziz has been accused of receiving the stolen money — about $248 million — into a bank account in Switzerland and then transferring the funds in smaller amounts to Red Granite, according to "American Greed."

Red Granite didn't just finance "The Wolf Of Wall Street" and other films with allegedly stolen money — they are accused of using the fund money for all sorts of lavish expenses, including gifting "Wolf Of Wall Street" star Leonardo DiCaprio Marlon Brando's Oscar for "On the Waterfront."

DiCaprio willingly returned the Oscar to U.S. investigators who were digging into the alleged money laundering scheme, "American Greed" reports.

Low, Razak, and Aziz have all denied any wrongdoing. Low has gone missing after being charged with money laundering. In May 2020, Malaysian prosecutors reached a monetary settlement with Aziz and dropped all charges against him, as shown on "American Greed." 

Razak, meanwhile, currently faces 42 charges related to the financial scandal in five different trials. He will learn his first verdict this week, on July 28, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

In 2018, Red Granite came to a $60 million-dollar settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. The U.S. government has rights to all future royalties from "The Wolf Of Wall Street," according to "American Greed.

As for Belfort's $300 million-dollar suit alleging he was deceived by Red Granite, in April 2020, Red Granite lawyers filed court papers denying it, calling the "claims as morally bankrupt" as Belfort, as seen on "American Greed."

So can he win?

"The likelihood that he is gonna be able to collect any of that 300 million dollars is about as likely as that the federal government is going to collect the remaining 100 million dollars that he [Belfort] owes," CNBC reporter Jane Wells told the program, referring to the financial restitution Belfort still allegedly owes the U.S. government.

Belfort and Red Granite have agreed to take the matter to arbitration.

For a detailed look into Belfort's financial scam, interviews with some of his victims, and a look into what Belfort is doing now, watch "American Greed: Biggest Cons," airing on CNBC on Monday, July 27 at 10/9c.

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