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Malaysia’s extraordinary financial scandal and the Hollywood blockbuster it allegedly financed

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Leonardo DiCaprio.

Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

  • Leonardo DiCaprio was called as a witness in a money laundering trial.
  • The trial of rapper Fugees Prakazrel “Pras” Michel begins in March 2023.
  • We take a look at the rapper and actor’s ties to Malaysia’s infamous 1MDB bribery scandal.
  • The scam reportedly saw senior Malaysian officials use looted funds to buy a $250million yacht, several paintings and finance a major Hollywood film.

Malaysia’s extraordinary 1MDB corruption scandal reportedly saw top officials loot billions from state coffers and embark on a global spending spree, buying a $250 million yacht, several paintings and funding the hollywood blockbuster, the wolf of Wall Street.

Najib Razak, then prime minister whose 12-year prison sentence was upheld earlier this year by the country’s highest court, played a key role in the looting of the sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

He was convicted in July 2020 in his first fraud-related bribery trial and sentenced.

A court of appeal last December rejected his appeal, prompting him to mount a final plea before the Federal Court, whose decision is final.

Chief Justice Maimun Tuan Mat has issued a warrant of committal, which a lawyer says means Najib is going to jail immediately.

What is 1MDB?

1MDB was a public investment fund that Najib launched in 2009 shortly after becoming prime minister.

Its portfolio included power plants and other energy assets in Malaysia and the Middle East, as well as real estate in Kuala Lumpur.

The fund was closely supervised by Najib.

Whistleblowers say Low Taek Jho, a Malaysian jet-set financier close to Najib but without a formal position, helped set up 1MDB and made key financial decisions.

Concerns intensified in 2014 when 1MDB slipped into an $11 billion debt hole and heightened public scrutiny revealed missing funds.

The scandal was first revealed via the Sarawak Report news portal and gained traction in 2015 when the Wall Street Journal published documents showing that Najib had received at least $681 million in payments to his bank accounts. personal.

Leonardo DiCaprio called as a witness

The US Department of Justice has launched its own investigation after claiming stolen Malaysian public money was laundered through the US financial system. He sued for some $1.8 billion in assets allegedly purchased with the money.

The department said more than $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB between 2009 and 2015 by high-level fund officials and their associates.

Tens of millions of dollars were used in 2012 by Najib’s son-in-law, Riza Aziz, an aspiring film producer, to finance the Hollywood film. the wolf of Wall Streetwith Leonardo DiCaprio.

The actor has since been called as a witness in the trial of rapper Fugees Prakazrel “Pras” Michel.

The rapper, along with Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, allegedly conspired to funnel more than $21 million in illegal foreign campaign contributions into the former’s 2012 campaign. President Barack Obama. Additionally, both were indicted for allegedly ‘orchestrating an unrecorded side channel campaign’ to influence then-President Donald Trump’s administration to drop a federal investigation of Low and others into the hijacking. money from 1MDB. Michel – whose trial begins in March 2023 – and Low have denied the allegations, E ! New reports.

Having ties to Low, Leonardo DiCaprio was listed as one of the Justice Department’s proposed witnesses in the case.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio is seen on the set of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ on September 24, 2012 in New York City.

Not only has the actor starred in the wolf of Wall Streetbut prosecutors also decided to seize a Picasso painting of the star which they say was purchased with $3.2 million in stolen funds and given to him by a Low’s associate, according to the Washington Post.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, however, said the actor “first learned from press reports of the government’s civil action against some of the parties involved in the making of the wolf of Wall Streetand that he “immediately” instructed his representatives to contact the Department of Justice to determine whether he or his foundation “had ever received any charitable gifts or donations directly or indirectly related to these parties and, if so, , to return such gifts or donations as soon as possible”.

In 2017, the star reportedly initiated proceedings to transfer ownership of the painting to the US government; he also returned Marlon Brando’s Oscar, given to him by Red Granite, the production company that made the wolf of Wall Street“to thank him for his work” on the film, by Reuters.

Red Granite has also reached an agreement to pay $60 million to the US government to resolve allegations that it profited from the corruption scandal, Variety reports.

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions have been used, mostly by Riza and Low, to buy high-end real estate in Beverly Hills, New York and London.

A painting by Monet was bought for $35 million, a Van Gogh for $5.5 million, a Bombardier plane for $35 million, a $100 million stake in EMI Music Publishing and a yacht for $250 million dollars were also checked off the shopping list.