The US Justice Department says that at least US$3.5bn has been laundered from 1MDB by individuals close to the Prime Minister and part of the money siphoned has gone into the production of The Wolf of Wall Street and DiCaprio’s foundation.
The US Justice Department has also initiated action to seize US$1.3bn which it says was taken from the fund to buy luxury properties in New York and California, a US$35m jet, art by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet.
“The Malaysian people were defrauded on an enormous scale,” Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe said at a news conference. Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib is not named in the suit but it refers to “Malaysian Official 1”, described as “a high-ranking official in the Malaysian government who also held a position of authority with 1MDB”.
The federal government complaints filed in Los Angeles in July saw the US Justice Department launch an investigation into a supposed link of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to fraudulent operations by the Malaysian fund. Over $3 billion has allegedly been siphoned from 1MDB by Malaysian financier Jho Low, who owns firm, Good Shell, linked to 1MDB scandal-source.
Leo’s role in the 1MDB investigation
The Oscar-winning actor has been caught up in the 1MDB issue because of his association with Jho Low and others connected to the production of the film. This includes Riza Aziz, co-founder of Red Granite Pictures and the stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
For example, it was reported by UK newspaper The Daily Mail that Low and an associate spent over US$3million on marked-up champagne at a LDF charity event in 2013.
According to DiCaprio’s representative, the actor, having learned in July about the government’s civil action against certain parties involved in the making of the film, immediately had his representatives reach out to the Justice Department.
“Mr. DiCaprio is seeking to determine whether he or his charitable foundation (Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, LDF) had 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,”
– Di Caprio’s spokesman, as quoted by WSJ.com.
These are some of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation’s projects in Southeast Asia that could be affected by the necessity to return any wrongly-given gifts:
1. Wildlife sanctuary in Aceh, Indonesia
Two NGOs in Aceh, HAkA and FKL, are collaborating in protecting a 200,000-hectare wildlife sanctuary in the Leuser Ecosystem of Aceh on the island of Sumatra, the last place where orangutans, rhinos, elephants, and tigers, and the elusive clouded leopard still roam together in the wild.
The preservation plan, in July 2015, was to construct barriers, training wildlife patrols and rangers, and recording and reporting any ongoing habitat destruction. The hope is to extend the sanctuary further to the south, north, and west to cover a total area of approximately 600,000 hectares.
2. 30 Hills project, Sumatra
Bukit Tigapuluh (30 Hills) tropical rainforest is one of the last refuges in the Southeast Asia for critically endangered Sumatran tigers, elephants and orangutans. It comprises 800,000 acres of forest, including a 330,000-acre national park. Two indigenous tribes, the Orang Rimba and the Talang Mamak, also inhabit this area, living a forest-dependent lifestyle as they have for generations.
Since 2010, LDF has been actively working to protect 30 Hills and managed to secure a long-term lease from the government of Indonesia to manage a key part of the forest. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and The Orangutan Project (TOP) are helping to restore 100,000 acres of former logging forest.
3. Marine Conservation in West Papua, Indonesia
The Bird’s Head Seascape is a 22.5 million-hectare marine space that is under threat by destructive fishing methods and uncontrolled overfishing. It provides food, jobs, and protection from storms and rising seas for close to a million people.
The BHS Initiative, established the Conservation International’s (CI) in 2004 aims to protect this unique biodiversity while also securing the marine resources so critical to local livelihoods. To date, the BHS Initiative has successfully established and managed a network of 12 marine protected areas covering 3.6 million hectares of coral reefs and mangroves.
Here’s hoping that these wonderful projects won’t be adversely affected by the ongoing scandal.
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