Leonardo DiCaprio’s credibility as an environmentalist could be in danger.
Bruno Manser Fund, a Swiss rainforest charity, has accused the 41-year-old actor of being connected to a multi-billion dollar Malaysian corruption scandal, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The fund is calling on DiCaprio to either “come clean” or step down from his position within the United Nations, where he has served as Messenger for Peace since 2014.
The actor is now under fire after his alleged ties to Malaysian wealth fund 1MDB surfaced earlier this year in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. 1MDB, or 1Malaysia Development Berhad, is a strategic development company owned by the country’s government that is intended for the benefit of its citizens, but it has allegedly paid bribes tied to deforestation.
“If DiCaprio is unwilling to come clean, we ask him to step down as UN Messenger for Peace for climate change, because he simply lacks the credibility for such an important role,” Lukas Straumann, director of the Bruno Manser Fund said.
The July 2016 lawsuit sought to seize $1 billion in assets bought with money from 1MDB, and alluded to the involvement of Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak (calling him “Malaysian Official 1” in court documents). Riza Aziz, Razak’s stepson and founder of Red Granite Pictures, was also named.
Red Granite Pictures produced 2013’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” and allegedly used funds from 1MDB to pay DiCaprio as a producer and star of the project. DiCaprio was alluded to in court documents, which elaborated on his relationship with Aziz, as “Hollywood Actor 1.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, DiCaprio also received laundered funds for his charitable foundation.
At the time of the filing, Red Granite said that none of its funding for the film was illegitimate.
Earlier this week, Straumann said in an open letter addressed to the star, “Leonardo DiCaprio needs to understand that we can’t save the environment if we fail to stop corruption. And he has to come clean on his ties to Riza Aziz and [Malaysian financier] Low Taek Jho, two key figures of Malaysia’s 1MDB corruption scandal.”
UPDATE: A spokesman for the actor said the following in an emailed statement to The Huffington Post on Tuesday:
Several months ago in July, Mr. DiCaprio first learned through press reports of the government’s civil action against some of the parties involved in the making of The Wolf of Wall Street. He immediately had his representatives reach out to the Department of Justice to determine whether he or his foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF), ever 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. All contact was initiated by Mr. DiCaprio and LDF.
Both Mr. DiCaprio and LDF continue to be entirely supportive of all efforts to assure that justice is done in this matter. Mr. DiCaprio is grateful for the lead and instruction of the government on how to accomplish this.
Out of respect for its ongoing investigation, which has touched many charities, hospitals and individuals, who may have been unwitting recipients of funds now in question, Mr. DiCaprio has refrained from public comment throughout this period of investigation. He will continue to limit his statements on this matter.