Leonardo DiCaprio’s charity has been urged to repay donations linked to a Malaysian fund that backed his film The Wolf of Wall Street. The foundation is being investigated by the US department of justice over alleged ties to a $3.5 billion embezzlement scandal whose “misappropriated” funds were used to bankroll the 2013 film, according to reports.
The actor is now facing calls to “give the dirty money back”. According to the US department of justice, certain donations to the Oscar-winner’s environmental charity, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, (the LDF), came directly from billions of dollars siphoned from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
The department filed a complaint in Los Angeles last month in what has been called the world’s largest embezzlement case, saying that at least $1 billion (£0.76 billion) traceable to the conspiracy was laundered through the US and used to purchase “assets” there.
Owned by the Malaysian government, 1MDB had raised upwards of $8 billion. However, according to US authorities, $3.5 billion of that money was “misappropriated” between 2009 and 2015.
According to the complaint, Jho Low, 35, a Malaysian businessman and drinking buddy of DiCaprio’s, spent an entire third of the siphoned billions by himself.
Low is said to have helped the LDF by buying marked-up champagne bottles at the actor’s birthday party in 2013 and paying $1.1million for art at an LDF-funding Christie’s auction.
He’s also said to have donated a Lichtenstein sculpture worth $700,000 to the LDF for another auction.
It also alleges that millions more were funnelled to Riza Aziz, the stepson of the Malaysian prime minister whose production company Red Granite Pictures bankrolled DiCaprio’s 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street.
Though not directly targeted, DiCaprio is named as “Hollywood Actor 1” in a 136-page complaint filed by the DOJ.
Eyebrows were raised last week when DiCaprio backed out of hosting a $33,400-per-guest fundraiser for Hillary Clinton at the last minute due – officially due to a change in the production schedule for his climate change film, Before the Flood. His friends Justin Timberlake and wife Jessica Biel stepped in to replace him.
US media speculated his withdrawal was to avoid Mrs Clinton embarrassment over the embezzlement case.
This week, the Bruno Manser Funds, a rainforest charity active in Malaysian Borneo, said it had sent an open letter to DiCaprio calling on him to return money he received from individuals connected to the 1MDB.
The organisation said DiCaprio, as founder of his environmental charity and a designated UN Messenger of Peace, has a responsibility to help stop corruption.
Representatives for DiCaprio and his foundation did not respond to requests for comment.