Leonardo DiCaprio has been implicated in a massive international embezzlement case and is being urged to pay back millions of dollars in suspect cash pumped into his charity and one of his films.
The actor seems to have become embroiled in the $4.6 billion scandal via his ties to a Malaysian big spender called Low Taek Jho, better known as “Jho Low”.
Low, 35, is accused, along with others, of funneling the cash out of a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the notoriously decadent Low donated artworks worth about $2 million for charity auctions held by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
The Department of Justice complaint filed in the US District Court in LA, which claims Low spent more than $1.3 billion of the money on himself, also accuses Riza Aziz, the stepson of the Malaysian prime minister of benefiting from the scheme.
Aziz’s production company, Red Granite Pictures, bankrolled DiCaprio’s 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street.
As the Reporter notes, although DiCaprio is only named twice – as “Hollywood Actor 1” – in the DOJ documents, the case has highlighted just how opaque the LDF’s financial affairs are.
“It’s difficult to characterize the giving of the DiCaprio Foundation because its status as part of the CCF makes it impossible to look at its finances,” Inside Philanthropy wrote in 2015.
The scandal, which some media has speculated led DiCaprio to cancel his appearance at a $44,000-per-head fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, has prompted Malaysian rainforest charity Bruno Manser Funds to call on the actor to pay the money back.
“We are deeply disturbed that Leonardo DiCaprio and his foundation accepted assets that originate from the proceeds of corruption in Malaysia. This is a disgrace and in total contradiction with the declared aims of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation,” the fund’s director, Lukas Straumann said.