Leonardo DiCaprio says he’s awaiting direction from the U.S. Justice Department regarding any ill-gotten funds that may have supported his environmental foundation or 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
The Oscar-winning actor released a statement through his representatives Tuesday saying he will return any gifts or donations connected to a Malaysian wealth fund, pending a fraud investigation of that fund by the U.S. and other countries. Court filings in connection with the investigations allege a complex money laundering scheme intended to enrich top-level officials of the Malaysian government-controlled wealth fund.
The government complaints also say that more than $700 million has landed in the accounts of “Malaysian Official 1.” They didn’t name the official, but appear to be referring to Najib.
The Justice Department complaints also do not mention DiCaprio by name, but make an oblique reference to “Hollywood Actor 1,” who during his Golden Globe acceptance speech thanked “the entire production team” and singled out several people close to Najib implicated in the scandal as “collaborators” on the film. DiCaprio won the Golden Globe for his “Wolf of Wall Street” performance.
The Justice Department complaints identify the collaborators by name, including Najib’s stepson, Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, who co-founded movie production company Red Granite Pictures. Besides “The Wolf of Wall Street,” other films produced by Red Granite include 2015’s “Daddy’s Home” and 2014’s “Dumb and Dumber To.”
Last week, a Swiss rainforest charity demanded that DiCaprio resign from his post as a United Nations “Messenger of Peace” if he doesn’t disclose his financial ties to the Malaysian fund. But on Monday, a U.N. spokesman expressed continued support for the actor.
Stephane Dujarric said he understands that DiCaprio’s foundation is working with the relevant authorities in the U.S. to resolve the issue.
“We continue to welcome his public work on behalf of climate change,” Dujarric said.
Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing since allegations of massive fraud in the fund erupted last year. He remains firmly in political control by clamping down on critics and because of unwavering support of most ruling party members. The opposition is too weak in Malaysia to dislodge him.
Democracy group Bersih plans to hold a mass street rally on Nov. 19 to demand Najib’s immediate resignation to allow an independent investigation in Malaysia into the financial scandal.-CNBC