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‘Wolf of Wall Street’ producer charged with siphoning off $248m from 1MDB

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'Wolf of Wall Street' producer charged with siphoning off $248m from 1MDB 3

Malaysian prosecutors have charged a Wolf of Wall Street film producer with money laundering, alleging he pocketed $248m linked to state investment fund 1MDB.

Riza Aziz – a co-founder of Hollywood production company Red Granite Pictures which was behind the Oscar-nominated film and stepson of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak – was charged with five counts of money laundering.

Mr Riza pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Each charge carries a financial penalty of up to five million ringgit ($1.21 million), a maximum jail term of five years, or both.


The court granted Mr Riza bail at one million ringgit and asked him to surrender his passports.

After unexpectedly losing an election to Mahathir Mohamad in May last year, Mr Najib has been slapped with a series of corruption charges, mostly tied to losses at now-defunct 1MDB.

Mr Najib, who founded 1MDB in 2009, faces 42 criminal charges related to huge losses at the fund and other state entities. He has pleaded not guilty and has consistently denied wrongdoing.

The US Justice Department has estimated that a total of $4.5bn was misappropriated by high-level officials at 1MDB and their associates between 2009 and 2014.

1MDB is being investigated in at least six countries for alleged money laundering and graft.

US prosecutors have said Red Granite had financed three films using funds they suspect were stolen from 1MDB.

Red Granite paid the US government $60m in September 2017 to settle a civil forfeiture claim over the rights to The Wolf of Wall Street.

Reuters



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Brexit Party MEPs branded ‘extremists’ for Ode to Joy stunt: ‘We would never turn our back on the British anthem’

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Brexit Party MEPs branded 'extremists' for Ode to Joy stunt: 'We would never turn our back on the British anthem' 5



Brexit Party MEPs branded 'extremists' for Ode to Joy stunt: 'We would never turn our back on the British anthem' 6

A top member of the European Parliament has lambasted the Brexit Party as “extremists” after they staged a protest in the body’s chamber on Tuesday.

Esteban González Pons, spokesperson for the legislature’s largest group, the centre-right EPP, called out Nigel Farage’s party during a debate.

The MEP said he would never treat Britain with the same disrespect the British MEPs had shown to Europe.


“To the extremists, I don’t know if they’re here today – but turning your back on the European anthem, I would just remind you that we would never turn our back on the British anthem. That’s the difference between us,” he told the MEPs.

Mr Golzalez Pons, a Spanish, added: “I am speaking here as part of a profound pro-European political group, we want to build Europe up from its foundations.”

Brexit Party MEPs turned their backs while the EU anthem, Ode to Joy was playing at the official opening of the parliament on Tuesday. 

The protest, which was previously staged by Ukip each year, angered anti-Brexit campaigners, who said the protest was childish and disrespectful. 

Some on social media even likened Mr Farage’s party to the Nazis, on the basis that Adolf Hitler’s party once turned their backs during a debate in the Reichstag.



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Ursula von der Leyen: the anti-Brexit German minister set to run the EU commission

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Ursula von der Leyen: the anti-Brexit German minister set to run the EU commission 8



Ursula von der Leyen: the anti-Brexit German minister set to run the EU commission 9

EU leaders surprised pretty much everyone on Tuesday by tapping Ursula von der Leyen to be their pick for commission president.

The 60-year-old defence minister is relatively unknown outside of Germany, where she’s presided over her ministry since 2013.

Getting the job would be something of a homecoming for the Christian democratic politician, who was actually raised in Brussels as a native French and German speaker. Her father, Ernst Albrecht, was a top EU civil servant in the Sixties.


She was not the name on anyone’s lips ahead of the summit to decide Jean-Claude Juncker’s replacement this week, and she did not campaign in the European elections as a candidate. That latter fact will count against her when it comes to the European parliament’s decision to accept or reject her – MEPs have been trying to inject some democracy into the selection process. 

But she was suggested as a compromise candidate after days of talks – apparently by the Visegrad group of central and eastern European countries. She won the vote of confidence of far-right Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban – which may actually count against her with other more liberal-minded Europeans.

Von der Leyen is no stranger to scandal: she’s currently undergoing a parliamentary inquiry over claims of nepotism and incompetence at the Ministry of Defence. She’s also been accused of plagiarising some of her doctoral thesis, and making errors in it.

On Brexit – which is fairly low down the agenda in Brussels at the moment – Von der Leyen will be more of the same (as any realistic pick for the top job would be). She’s said Brexit is a “loss for everyone” and said events since the referendum had the “burst bubble of hollow promises” woven by Vote Leave.

Von der Leyen is, above all, a close ally of Angela Merkel – a moderate who is the only minister to have served in all her governments continuously since 2005. Before taking over the defence portfolio she was labour and social affairs minister, and before that, families minister. In those roles she supported quotas for women on company boards and beefed up parental leave for fathers. She stood by Merkel during the refugee crisis.

As defence minister, she promoted arms exports to Saudi Arabia, and on foreign policy is, by German standards at least, a hawk. At the EU, she is a strong federalist, and has called for “a united states of Europe – run along the lines of the federal states of Switzerland, Germany or the USA”. She says an EU army is also an aspiration. 

What would her policies be like in office? We don’t know, exactly. She didn’t stand in the EU elections and hasn’t put out a manifesto.



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