Makers of ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ could sue activist Gordon Brown's sister-in-law over allegations about how the film was financed

Film producers threaten action against activist over claim Malaysian government cash was used

The producers of the hit film The Wolf of Wall Street have threatened to sue Gordon Brown’s activist sister-in-law after she alleged that proceeds from government corruption in Malaysia may have contributed to the movie’s funding – a claim its financiers deny.

Clare Rewcastle Brown, an investigative journalist and campaigner, who runs the Sarawak Report blog, posted a series of stories about Red Granite Pictures, the Los Angeles-based independent company which financed the $100m Leonardo DiCaprio film about the corrupt stock market trader Jordan Belfort.

Ms Rewcastle Brown, married to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s younger brother Andrew, has spearheaded a campaign against state corruption and deforestation in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The chief minister, Taib Mahmud, is under investigation over claims that he and his family have enriched themselves at the expense of Sarawak’s people.

Red Granite, an American company, was co-founded by Riza Aziz, the stepson of Najib Razak, Malaysia’s Prime Minister.

Aziz’s mother is Rosmah Mansor, Malaysia’s designer bag-toting “first lady”, accused of “excessive shopping” by political opponents, an allegation she denies.

Ms Rewcastle Brown, 53, a former BBC World Service journalist who was born in Sarawak, began to investigate Red Granite, which launched in 2011 and swiftly established itself as a backer of big-budget films.

She published a story after The Wolf Of Wall Street’s release with the subheading, "Where Did the Money Come From?” It asked:  “How Riza Aziz emerged as a major bankroller of Hollywood movies is of obvious interest. Could it be linked to his family position and circle of associates?”

The activist questioned a “special thanks” full screen credit on the film given to Jho Low, a flamboyant Malaysian “billionaire tycoon” who posed on the red carpet with Aziz and DiCaprio at the Wolf of Wall Street premiere.

Ms Rewcastle Brown remove alleged that Low, who reportedly gifted Scorsese and DiCaprio Rolex watches at a celebratory dinner, is involved in Malaysian government business projects led by Taib and Razak.

Malaysian authorities last year banned Ms Rewcastle Brown from entering the country but her blogs are widely read across the region.

Rafizi Ramli, director of strategy for Malaysia’s opposition People’s Justice Party, said: “The Prime Minister has a duty to prove that his stepson’s source of funds is legitimate and does not have anything to do with public funds. We want to know who are the financiers in his company. Who are so generous as to give such huge amounts of money.”

Red Granite, which rescued the Wall Street film, getting Paramount on board after the project had become stalled at Warner Bros, reacted to the developing row by sending a “cease and desist” letter to Ms Rewcastle Brown.

The letter, seen by The Independent, objects to the “false, misleading, damaging and malicious statements” on the blog and demands their retraction and an apology.

The letter states that talents of the calibre of director Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio would never have got involved in the film if there had been anything “illicit”, “improper” or “tainted” over its financing.

The film was not financed by Aziz, his relatives or “any other sources of finances emanating from Malaysia,” the letter said but utilised “traditional sources of movie picture financing” such as major financial institutions.  Any suggestion that Jho Low was an investor in Red Granite, or the movie, was also false, the letter said.

Accused of “character assassination” by the producer’s lawyers Loeb & Loeb, Ms Rewcastle Brown has refused to comply with the letter and has continued to publish the posts on the Sarawak Report.

“I believe I am asking valid questions about this company and the sources of their finance,” Ms Rewcastle Brown told The Independent. “No-one had heard of these individuals in Hollywood until a couple of years ago. If Euan Blair suddenly started producing feature films everyone would be asking how.”

The campaigner spent a week in Los Angeles talking to industry figures about Red Granite. “People in Hollywood have sent me mystery emails. I have more information which I intend to run in further posts,” she said. “Everything I have written is based on evidence. They told me to get off their properties but they haven’t followed up their libel threats so far.”

The activist is determined to shine a spotlight on Malaysia where it has been reported that Taib may finally resign as Chief Minister after 33 years, allowing Sarawak to hold fresh elections.

Several international non-governmental organisations have alleged that the three decades in office have allowed Taib and his closest family members to amass assets worth several billion US dollars. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has been investigating Taib, who denies the claims, since 2011.

If The Wolf of Wall Street wins the Best Picture Oscar next month, Aziz will not be able to collect the award. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ruled that the eligible producers were Joey McFarland, Red Granite co-founder,  Scorsese, DiCaprio and Emma Tillinger Koskoff.  Aziz said he was “honoured to be part of the production team.” Red Granite did not respond to requests to comment on the Rewcastle Brown legal situation.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on