Leonardo DiCaprio co­op­er­at­ing in 1MDB probe

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Leonardo DiCaprio is aid­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a Malaysian em­bez­zle­ment scam that in­volved his hit film about fi­nan­cial mar­ket fraud, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” ac­cord­ing to his spokesper­son Tues­day. The Hol­ly­wood star con­tacted the US Jus­tice De­part­ment in July just af­ter it filed a law­suit to seize more than $1 bil­lion in al­legedly ill-got­ten as­sets tied to Malaysian state in­vest­ment fund 1MDB, in­clud­ing rights to the film, DiCaprio’s spokesper­son said.

Al­le­ga­tions of a vast in­ter­na­tional scheme of em­bez­zle­ment and money-laun­der­ing in­volv­ing bil­lions of dol­lars of 1MDB money be­gan to emerge two years ago, rock­ing Malaysia’s po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment. In a July law­suit, the US Jus­tice De­part­ment de­tailed how “Malaysian Of­fi­cial 1”-later iden­ti­fied by of­fi­cials as Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak-fam­ily mem­bers, and close as­so­ci­ates di­verted bil­lions from the now-stricken fund.

Na­jib launched the fund, 1Malaysia De­vel­op­ment Ber­had in 2009 and closely over­saw it. Both he and 1MDB deny any wrong­do­ing. The money al­legedly si­phoned from 1MDB was used to buy hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars worth of as­sets around the world, and al­legedly fi­nanced the pro­duc­tion of “The Wolf of Wall Street.” DiCaprio’s 2013 film about Wall Street cor­rup­tion and greed was fi­nanced by Red Gran­ite Pic­tures, co­founded by Riza Aziz, step­son of the Malaysian prime min­is­ter. DiCaprio re­port­edly was friends with Aziz as­so­ciate Jho Low, also named in the law­suit.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment wants to seize roy­al­ties from the film, as well as real es­tate in Bev­erly Hills, New York and Lon­don, art­works by Monet and Van Gogh, and a Bom­bardier jet. A Leonardo DiCaprio Foun­da­tion spokesper­son said that af­ter hear­ing about the law­suit, DiCaprio’s had his rep­re­sen­ta­tives contact the Jus­tice De­part­ment “to de­ter­mine whether he or his foun­da­tion ... ever re­ceived any gifts or char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions di­rectly or in­di­rectly re­lated to these par­ties, and if so, to re­turn those gifts or do­na­tions as soon as pos­si­ble.”

The move to seize the funds, which is sub­ject to what could be lengthy le­gal pro­ceed­ings, emerges from a 2010 Jus­tice De­part­ment anti-klep­toc­racy ini­tia­tive in­tended to con­fis­cate the ill-got­ten gains of world lead­ers which pass through the US bank­ing sys­tem. The Bruno Manser Fund, a Swiss NGO cam­paign­ing against cor­rup­tion in Malaysia, said Tues­day it wel­comed DiCaprio’s an­nounce­ment but called on the ac­tor to fully dis­close his fi­nan­cial ties to Low, Aziz and Red Gran­ite Pic­tures.

“DiCaprio’s pub­lic state­ment leaves key ques­tions open,” said Lukas Strau­mann, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Bruno Manser Fund. “How much money did Leonardo DiCaprio and his foun­da­tion get from Po­lit­i­cally Ex­posed Per­sons (PEPs) from Malaysia and why didn’t he con­duct due dili­gence upon re­ceiv­ing these funds?” The or­ga­ni­za­tion also ques­tioned whether DiCaprio would pay back the es­ti­mated $25 mil­lion he re­ceived for his role in The Wolf of Wall Street. “While we ap­pre­ci­ate the state­ment and his co­op­er­a­tion with the De­part­ment of Jus­tice, there is clearly more DiCaprio could do to end this dis­grace­ful chap­ter in Hol­ly­wood his­tory,” the state­ment said. — AFP

In this file photo, ac­tor Leonardo DiCaprio poses for pho­tog­ra­phers dur­ing a photo call to pro­mote the film ‘Be­fore the Flood’, show­ing as part of the Lon­don Film Fes­ti­val in Lon­don. — AP

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