Kuala Lumpur, Jul 6 (AP/UNB) — "The Wolf of Wall Street" producer and stepson of Malaysia's former prime minister pleaded not guilty on Friday to laundering $248 million from a state investment fund, becoming the third person in his family charged in the 1MDB scandal that helped end Najib Razak's government last year.
Riza Aziz was solemn as he appeared in court to be charged with receiving the illicit funds between 2011 and 2012 in the U.S. and Singapore.
The charge sheets said the money was misappropriated from 1MDB and channeled into bank accounts of Riza's company Red Granite Pictures Inc., which produced films including the Martin Scorsese-directed film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The 2013 film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture.
The money was transferred from Swiss bank accounts of two companies U.S. investigators identified as being linked to 1MDB into Red Granite's accounts in the United States and Singapore, according to the charge sheets describing the evidence.
Riza, 42, was released on bail. He was charged with five counts of money laundering and could face up to five years in prison, a fine or both, on each count if he is convicted.
Najib set up the 1MDB fund to finance development in Malaysia when he took office in 2009, but it accumulated billions in debts and U.S. investigators allege at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib's associates.
Public anger over the alleged corruption contributed to the shocking election defeat of Najib's long-ruling coalition in May 2018, and the new government reopened investigations that had been stifled while Najib was in office.
Najib is currently on trial for alleged criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering linked to 1MDB. He denies the charges. His wife and Riza's mother, Rosmah Mansor, also has pleaded not guilty to money laundering and tax evasion related to 1MDB but her trial date has not been set.
Riza's arraignment came a year after he was questioned by Malaysia's anti-graft agency. U.S. investigators say Red Granite used money stolen from 1MDB to finance Hollywood films. Red Granite has paid the U.S. government $60 million to settle claims it benefited from the 1MDB scandal, and the U.S. returned the money to Malaysia.
Riza's sister, Nooryana Najwa, has slammed the legal action against her brother.
"Despite the settlement in the U.S. and the fact that alleged wrongdoings occurred entirely outside of Malaysia, the MACC decides to press charges after a whole year of leaving this case in cold storage. He is not a criminal," she wrote on Instagram, accompanied by a picture of her with Riza taken before his arrest.
Boston, Jul 6 (AP/UNB) — A young man who says Kevin Spacey groped him in a Nantucket bar in 2016 has dropped his lawsuit against the Oscar-winning actor, his lawyer said Friday.
Spacey still faces a criminal charge. He pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and battery in January.
His accuser's lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, announced in an email that the suit filed June 26 in Nantucket Superior Court has been voluntarily dismissed. No reason was provided either by Garabedian or in the court filing. Garabedian said he would have no further comment. A telephone message was left at his office.
According to the court filing, the suit was dismissed "with prejudice," which means it cannot be refiled.
An email was left Friday requesting comment from Alan Jackson, Spacey's attorney. Jackson has previously said the man is lying in the hopes of winning money in a civil case against Spacey.
The legal development could have significance for the criminal case against Spacey, legal experts say.
While there are a range of reasons why a civil suit is dropped so quickly after being filed, it could be an indicator a private settlement was reached and that the accuser may ultimately stop cooperating with prosecutors, said William Korman, a former prosecutor in the Suffolk County District Attorney's office who is now a criminal defense lawyer specializing in sexual assault cases.
"Any settlement could not be conditioned on a refusal to cooperate with the prosecution," said Korman. "Nevertheless, money is a great motivator for an individual not to follow through."
It's also possible prosecutors, upset with the timing of the civil suit, specifically asked the accuser to drop it, said David Yannetti, a former prosecutor who is now a criminal defense lawyer in Boston. The civil suit was filed months into the ongoing criminal case, but such suits are typically filed after a criminal case is decided, he said.
"Maybe the prosecution said it's either about money or it's about a crime, but it can't be about both and you have to make a decision on where you want to go with this," Yannetti said.
The civil suit was likely filed before completion of the criminal case because the three-year statute of limitations is approaching, added Yannetti.
"We're operating with very little info, but it's clear something unusual is going on here," he said. "Either the prosecution got involved or there was some sort of civil settlement."
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe's office declined to comment on whether prosecutors had any role in the withdrawal of the civil suit or whether a settlement has been reached.
"The criminal case is independent from the civil case and will go forward," Assistant District Attorney Tara Miltimore said in an email.
Garabedian's client, the son of Boston TV anchor Heather Unruh, alleged Spacey got him drunk and sexually assaulted him at the Club Car restaurant where the then-18-year-old man worked as a busboy.
The criminal case has centered on the cellphone used by the accuser the night of the alleged groping, which the defense says it needs in order to recover text messages it says will support Spacey's innocence.
Nantucket District Court Judge Thomas Barrett has ordered the man to hand the phone over to the defense, but his attorney said they cannot find it. The judge has given them until Monday to produce the phone.
Beijing, July 6 (Xinhua/UNB) -- "The White Storm 2: Drug Lords," a new Chinese anti-drug action movie, led the Chinese mainland box office on its opening day Friday, China Movie Data Information Network said Saturday.
The film raked in about 130.63 million yuan (about 18.95 million U.S. dollars), accounting for over 59 percent of the daily total.
It was followed by "Spider-Man: Far from Home," the latest installment of the acclaimed Marvel Cinematic Universe, which grossed more than 53.56 million yuan on its eighth day of screening.
Universal and Illumination's "The Secret Life of Pets 2" ranked third on its debut day Friday, grossing about 18.12 million yuan.
The Oscar-winning Japanese animated film "Spirited Away" pulled in 6.4 million yuan, making it the fourth highest-grossing film Friday.
Dhaka, July 5 (UNB) - Actor Josh Brolin has revealed that he is constantly in touch with Disney/Marvel executives regarding the future of the Deadpool franchise, reports The Indian Express.
The media conglomerate assumed the control of the Ryan Reynolds-led franchise after its acquisition of the 20th Century Fox.
Brolin, who portrayed Cable, the time-travelling mutant with a bionic arm, in Deadpool 2, said he has not yet received a response from the studio about the future of the series.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m actually, I’ve been calling them, like, ‘What’s the deal with Cable, man?’ Seriously, 100 percent serious. They’re figuring it out. It’s a big world now, it just got much, much bigger. So who knows,” he said.
According to Screenrant, the 51-year-old actor was speaking at the ACE Comic Con in Seattle.
The future of Deadpool series is facing uncertainty after Disney unveiled its new calendar of Fox-owned movies at the beginning of May.
Though Disney gave new release dates to Avatar 2 and The New Mutants, the studio also confirmed that it currently has no Deadpool movies planned for the foreseeable future.
Dhaka, July 4 (UNB) - Filmmaker JA Bayona will be directing the initial two episodes of Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings adaptation, reports The Indian Express.
The 44-year-old director, who most recently worked on blockbuster Jurrasic World: Fallen Kingdom, will also executive produce the series, reported Variety.
“JRR Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honour and a joy to join this amazing team,” Bayona said in a statement.
“I can’t wait to take audiences around the world back to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never-before-seen story,” he added.
Recently, Bryan Cogman, who worked as a writer and co-executive producer on Game of Thrones, boarded the project as a series consultant.
He is helping out the writing team of Patrick McKay and JD Payne, who were announced as series developers last year.
Amazon has made a multi-season production commitment to the TV series. It will produce the show in cooperation with the Estate of J R R Tolkien, publishing house HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Bros.
However, the series will not be a retelling of Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning trilogy. It will explore story set before the events in the first LOTR novel, The Fellowship of the Ring.