More charities are calling on Leonardo DiCaprio to return donations to his philanthropic foundation which appear to have come from a money laundering scam in Malaysia.
DiCaprio, though not said to have acted improperly, received money for his foundation though fundraising events from individuals connected to one of the biggest fraud cases in the world.
Jho Low, a Malaysian businessman and friend of DiCaprio, has spent millions at the lavish fundraisers and auctions, flooding the foundation with money.
Along with Riza Aziz, the stepson of the Malaysian prime minister and the co-founder of Red Granite Pictures, which made DiCaprio and Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’, Low is on the hook for embezzlement to the tune of billions of dollars.
DiCaprio is even named in a Justice Department’s case against the money launderers as ‘Hollywood Actor 1’, as it’s said a huge chunk of the funds taken from the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund in Malaysia was channeled through the US.
“In keeping the ill-gotten money, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is acting in complete contradiction to its mission statement, which is to be ‘dedicated to the long-term health and wellbeing of all Earths inhabitants… while restoring balance to threatened ecosystems and communities’,” said Peter Kallang of Save Rivers, a grassroots environmental charity in Malaysia.
“The money should thus be returned to the people of Malaysia to stop the massive destruction to the environment and ecosystem from land developments and pollution.”
Ambiga Sreenevasan, a celebrated Malaysian human rights advocate and lawyer, given the U.S. International Women of Courage award by Hillary Clinton in 2009, has also weighed in.
“Imagine our shock — and embarrassment — to learn that a man whom we admire and respect is connected with the heist of the decade that has undermined the [Malaysian] people in so many ways,” she wrote in an open letter to DiCaprio yesterday.
“We know that apart from being a wonderful actor, you are deeply concerned about humanitarian and social issues. How then can you remain silent in the face of this travesty?”
“The 1MDB debt is so huge that our children and grandchildren will be stuck paying for it. How anyone could have used the people’s money in a manner that benefited themselves and burdened the people, is truly beyond me.
She also added that the money should be returned directly to the Malaysian people ‘so that it may go some way towards compensating them for this massive fraud that has been perpetrated upon them’.
It’s said that Low, often referred to as a ‘drinking buddy’ of DiCaprio, spent millions on marked-up champagne at the star’s charity events, and bought art also worth millions at charity auctions.
DiCaprio has not commented directly on the matter, but Fisher Stevens, the director of National Geographic climate change documentary ‘Before The Flood’ which features DiCaprio, defended him while unveiling the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival.
He told The Hollywood Reporter: “The guy’s trying to do good. Okay, so he had an unsavoury character in there who donated some money. What did he (DiCaprio) know? Leo did nothing wrong.”
Image credits: AP/Getty/National Geographic