1MDB: Swiss Foundation Challenges DiCaprio

1MDB, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruno Manser Fund, LDF, Jho Low, Riza Aziz, Najob Razak, Tan King Loong

Leonardo DiCaprio

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio purportedly received funds from scandal-tarnished Malaysian state fund 1MDB for his environmental foundation. A Swiss foundation devoted to protecting Malaysia's rainforest wants answers.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s close affiliation with people accused of wrong-doing in the 1MDB corruption probe is turning into a troublesome reputational issue for the Academy Award winner. 

The Bruno Manser Fund, a Swiss-based foundation devoted to Sarawak rainforest conservation and empowering indigenous people, has written a letter to DiCaprio.

In it, the Hollywood actor is urged to pay back any funds he or his eponymous foundation received from 1MDB, or people with ties to the probe.

Close Friends

In a letter seen by finews.asia, Manser’s executive director voices «deep concern» about the possibility that LDF may have been on the receiving end of laundered money.

The letter is addressed to DiCaprio’s California-based foundation, and cc’d for U.N. head Ban Ki Moon, U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch, justice official M. Kendall Day and Julius Baer CEO Boris Collardi.

Collardi is a prominent backer of DiCaprio’s, with Baer sponsoring a high-profile annual fundraiser for the actor’s charity.

1MDB Connections?

The Swiss foundation is asking about DiCaprio’s connections to 1MDB advisor Jho Low, Riza Aziz, who is Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s stepson, and Tan King Loong, another 1MDB advisor.

Manser’s foundation asks for DiCaprio for answers on money flows to him or the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which isn’t required to disclose any financials because of its status as a foundation. LDF says it has granted $30 million in the last six years to 76 projects – from protecting Indonesian coral reefs to wild tigers in Nepal.

Pay Back «Dirty Money»

The Manser foundation also asks DiCaprio to pay back any funds linked to alleged corruption in Malaysia: «We call on Di Caprio to apologize and pay back all this dirty money to the Malaysian people.»

DiCaprio is in a dicey situation: not only is one of his greatest professional achievements alleged to have been funded in part with corruption money, the actor’s own foundation devoted to environmental projects is also being queried for possible links to graft.

Work and Private 1MDB Ties

The Manser foundation noted that Malaysia is rife with corruption, which it calls one of the main drivers of deforestation in the country.

This in turn is linked to large-scale illegal logging, destruction of tropical rainforests, and poverty of indigenous communities.

DiCaprio appears to have associated both professionally and privately with so-called PEPs, or politically exposed persons, who are now the focus on a U.S.-led probe into the disappearance of billions of dollars of state money.

There is no evidence that DiCaprio himself or LDF received money from 1MDB.

$3 Million in Birthday Champagne

DiCaprio’s ties to production firm Red Granite was named in Justice Department filings on the Malaysian fund. Red Granite, led by Aziz, financed «The Wolf of Wall Street», for which DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar.

«The Hollywood Reporter» reported that Jho Low helped raise more than $3 million for the charity by buying marked-up bottles of champagne at the actor’s 2013 birthday.

The Manser foundation said it wants answers on the links between DiCaprio and 1MDB, in a bid to heighten public awareness about DiCaprio’s foundation, which has been criticized for its lack of transparency.

Swiss Banks and 1MDB

The actor has also been a UN messenger for climate change since 2014.

1MDB is the latest scandal to hit Swiss private banking, with several banks including UBS, Banca della Svizzera Italiana or BSI, and Falcon Private Bank tied up in regulatory inquiries in Switzerland, Singapore and elsewhere for their dealings with the fund.

The Manser foundation has been a tireless advocate of investigating 1MDB, money-laundering, graft and Swiss banks’ involvement.

It is named after conservationist Bruno Manser, who is now presumed dead after disappearing in 2000 under mysterious circumstances in a Borneo rainforest.

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