2 September 2016
A charity organisation started by actor Leonardo DiCaprio has been urged to pay back donations received from Malaysian fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which is linked to his film The Wolf of Wall Street.
The Bruno Manser Fund, a rainforest charity active in Malaysian Borneo, issued an open letter to the star, accusing him of "double standards".
According to The Guardian, Bruno Manser claims that while DiCaprio has been involved in efforts to preserve rainforests in Sumatra, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) allegedly received contributions from 1MDB which has been connected to deforestation in Malaysia.
LDF is said to have received money from Malaysian businessman Jho Low, who has been closely linked to 1MDB. Low allegedly used US$1.1 million (S$1.49 million) of diverted 1MDB funds to buy two works of art at a charity auction in 2013, and also helped raise US$3 million for LDF by buying champagne at DiCaprio's birthday party, reported The Hollywood Reporter.
Low is also said to have donated a sculpture worth US$700,000 to LDF for another auction, The Telegraph reported.
"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," said Bruno Manser Fund's executive director Lukas Straumann.
Meanwhile, 1MDB has also been linked to Red Granite Pictures, production company behind The Wolf of Wall Street. In a civil complaint filed by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in July, the studio reportedly received about US$100 million of funds from an investment firm tied to the state fund.
Red Granite was co-founded by Riza Aziz, the stepson of Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, who has been repeatedly linked to the scandal.
In the 136-page DOJ complaint, DiCaprio was named as "Hollywood Actor 1".
However, Red Granite claimed that it was not aware of any illicit funds being funnelled through the company.
The DOJ is investigating the whereabouts of an alleged US$3.5 billion that was embezzled from 1MDB. In its reports, The Wall Street Journal alleged that approximately US$1 billion of the funds ended in the private bank accounts of Mr Najib.
According to the Journal, the Malaysian prime minister has not acknowledged all of the transfers into his accounts, but claimed that US$681 million was received as a donation from the royal family of Saudi Arabia. He also said that he returned most of the funds to the donor.
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