Rainforest Fund Queries Julius Baer on DiCaprio Ties and 1MDB

Leonardo DiCaprio with Boris Collardi

Leonardo DiCaprio with Boris Collardi

A Swiss foundation which has taken aim at environmentalist-actor Leonardo DiCaprio over potential links to 1MDB has redoubled its efforts. In the crosshairs this time: Swiss bank Julius Baer.

One week after questioning Leonardo DiCaprio over potential links to a Malaysia state fund that is engulfed in a graft scandal, the Bruno Manser Fund is now taking aim at Julius Baer.

The Basel-based foundation's initial letter urged DiCaprio to pay back any «dirty money» to the people of Malaysia and blasted him for his ties to 1MDB advisor Jho Low, Riza Aziz, who is the Malaysian Prime Minister’s stepson, and Tan King Loong, another 1MDB advisor.

Julius Baer Queried

In the most recent letter, which has been seen by finews.asia, the foundation queries Julius Baer boss Boris Collardi on whether the bank maintains financial ties to DiCaprio's foundation.

Collardi is a prominent backer of DiCaprio’s, with Baer sponsoring a glitzyannual charity fundraiser in St-Tropez for the actor's charity. The two also know each other because they are both involved in an advisory body for Formula E, the world's first electric car racing circuit.

A spokesman for the bank didn't comment. There is no evidence that either the bank, DiCaprio, or Collardi are involved in any wrong-doing.

Baer, DiCaprio Financial Ties?

Julius Baer is not among the banks to have been singled out by regulators for dealing with 1MDB, which include UBS, Banca della Svizzera Italiana (BSI), Falcon Private Bank, and Standard Chartered. 

In the letter, the foundation asks whether Baer handles any financial transactions on behalf of DiCaprio's foundation and what the bank is doing to rule out ill-gotten gains landing at the bank or the DiCaprio foundation.

«We are concerned that as a donor-advised fund the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation does not fulfill the usual transparency standards for environmental and human rights charities,» the Manser fund wrote to Collardi.

DiCaprio's 1MDB Ties?

It accuses DiCaprio's foundation of accepting funds from Aziz, Low, or Loong, who have been named in a U.S. asset seizure document, without disclosing how it came by the information.

Strict secrecy laws in Switzerland make it impossible to find out whether Baer and DiCaprio's foundation do maintain financial ties, beyond the bank's sponsoring of the fundraiser.

Lichtenstein «Brushstroke»

To be sure, Collardi's ties to DiCaprio, whose Oscar-nominated film «The Wolf of Wall Street» is accused by U.S. officials of being financed in part with 1MDB money, are atpyical for a Swiss private banker.

For DiCaprio, whose ties to Aziz and Low are documented, the matter is morphing into a troublesome reputational issue.

Specifically, the Manser fund questions whether a $700,000 Roy Lichtenstein sculpture titled «Brushstroke» donated to DiCaprio's foundation for fundraising passed through the bank. 

Environmental Goals

DiCaprio isn’t required to disclose any financial details of his charitable work because of its legal status as a foundation. The Swiss foundation asks Baer to urge DiCaprio's foundation to provide more information about revenue, spending and charitable disbursements.

Ironically, both DiCaprio and the Bruno Manser Fonds are fighting for the same goal: the Swiss foundation is devoted to Sarawak rainforest conservation and empowering indigenous people.

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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