Leonardo DiCaprio pressured over 1MDB ties: Actor’s UN role put into question

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Leonardo DiCaprio - Photograph: Wikipedia

Bruno Manser Fund and the Centre to Combat Cronyism and Corruption demand DiCaprio’s resignation as UN Messenger of Peace for climate change if he fails to distance himself from Malaysian corruption.

Leonardo DiCaprio has been urged to disclose his full financial ties to the stepson and a close associate of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak over concerns that millions of dollars of embezzled Malaysian state funds may have enriched the Hollywood star. The money is thought to have flown into his production company Appian Way Productions and into the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

During a press conference held in London today, civil society activists from Malaysia, the UK and Switzerland called on Leonardo DiCaprio to publicly disown Najib Razak’s stepson, Riza Aziz, and his associate Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) who had been instrumental in funding the production of the film The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio was also urged to pay back to Malaysia all dubious funds he had accepted from the couple and their associates.

According to the US Department of Justice, Riza Aziz and Jho Low financed the production of The Wolf of Wall Street in 2012 with US$61m embezzled from the Malaysian state fund 1MDB. The film was co-produced by DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions and Martin Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions. It has been estimated that DiCaprio was paid US$25m for his cast as Jordan Belfort which earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.

An investigation by The Hollywood Reporter recently disclosed that the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation benefited from over US$2m in cash and in kind donations by Jho Low since 2013. Last year, Low donated a Roy Lichtenstein sculpture to the foundation, which was auctioned at a fundraising Gala in St Tropez.

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“Leonardo DiCaprio has consistently refused to explain his close personal and financial ties with key persons of the Malaysian 1MDB scandal,” said Lukas Straumann, director of the Bruno Manser Fund, a Switzerland-based rainforest charity. “This is unacceptable. If DiCaprio fails to distance himself from Malaysian corruption, he should resign as UN Messenger of Peace for climate change. We can’t save the environment if we fail to stop corruption.“

DiCaprio urged to pay back embezzled Malaysian state funds

Sudhagaran Stanley of the Malaysian Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) said: “All embezzled Malaysian public funds that have been sent overseas need to be returned to the country. Leonardo DiCaprio would be in the best position to do that and pay back the millions he received from Jho Low and Riza Aziz. The Malaysian taxpayers can’t be cheated.”

Stanley also urged the international community to initiate criminal proceedings against those involved in the embezzlement and laundering of Malaysian state funds and to pressure the Malaysian government to provide mutual legal assistance.

“We need tighter banking rules to ensure that criminals like Najib Razak can’t exploit their citizens and abuse offshore havens to launder stolen assets,” said Clare Rewcastle Brown, editor and founder of Sarawak Report.

Rewcastle Brown said she was shocked to find out how willingly global banks had cooperated with criminals in concealing billions of dollars embezzled from the Malaysian sovereign fund 1MDB. An investigation by Sarawak Report triggered what later became known as the world’s biggest financial scandal.

1MDB is just the latest case in a series of grand corruption scandals involving Malaysian politicians. Malaysia has consistently refused to cooperate with international investigations and enforcement actions against leading politicians from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

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