Leonardo DiCaprio’s annual swanky St. Tropez gala and auction may be affected by the latest turn of events in the “Wolf of Wall Street”-Malaysian fund scandal involving billions.
The government has forced Oscar winner Leo to return pieces of art given to him by associates, bought–they say– with missing money from a Malaysian public fund called 1MDB. Leo says he was going to auction the pieces off at the end of July at his foundation soiree in St. Tropez. But now he may have to sign autographs instead.
The art includes a $3.2 million Picasso, a $9 million Basquiat collage and an Oscar that once belonged to Marlon Brando. The scandal involves the funding of “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and rights to the movies “Daddy’s Home,” and “Dumb and Dumber To.” Not only has the art been turned over to the government, but Leo also had to give back the Oscar. The US government believes they are all tied to a money laundering scheme in Malaysia.
Leo is knee deep in this scandal. The government filed a federal forfeiture case last week against several of Di Caprio’s associates who funded “The Wolf of Wall Street.” They include Riza Shahriz Bin Abdul Aziz, founder of Red Granite Productions, that’s caused trouble. Aziz is Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s stepson. Aziz is accused of allegedly looting 1MDB to fund movie making, large scale art buying, and purchases of luxury real estate.
What makes this even more curious: this is the 3rd time in 20 years that Di Caprio has been thisclose to wildly illegal activity that involved government investigations or the sending of associates to jail. First was Ponzi schemer Dana Giacchetto (went to jail, now dead, a suicide); then there was art dealer Helly Nahmad. Nahmad, freshly out of jail from a gambling scheme, is mentioned in the new complaint because his gallery handled the transfer of some of the art to DiCaprio.
What is wrong with this picture?
The Malaysian scandal: basically what’s alleged is that Malaysians invested hundreds of million in what turned out to be a Ponzi scheme. The money was disbursed by Aziz, now it’s gone. The 1MDB scandal includes two unsolved murders two murders in that country. One of the victims was a local prosecutor. It’s literally like a real life James Bond movie or “Mission Impossible.”
In the middle of it is the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which has no transparency because it’s hidden under a California umbrella group of charities. So no one really knows about the money that’s gone in and out of it.
All we do know, besides DiCaprio’s involvement with Aziz and his associates, is that his St. Tropez gala is underwritten by Julius Baer private bank of Switzerland. Last year I reported that Julius Baer had to pay the US government $547 million in fines for fraud. This year, Julius Baer was accused of massive embezzlement.
Turning over the art and the Oscar and jewelry isn’t the end of this for the star of “The Revenant.” The complaint for recovery is 251 pages long. There’s more to come.
Meantime, Julius Baer is sponsoring the DiCaprio Foundation dinner again, and there’s still no public record of the foundation’s financials. You ask, Is this common for big movie stars? The answer is no.
DiCaprio, despite making millions on his movies, has always been attracted to rich patrons. In this case, he didn’t think it odd that he received as a belated birthday gift a $3.2 million Picasso painting from Eric Tan aka Tan Kim Loong, an associate of Aziz via fellow 1MDB participant Jho Low, or on another occasion a $9 million Basquiat collage. (DiCaprio peers like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey must be wondering where they went wrong.)
The Basquiat collage raises even more questions since Low et al bought it as a gift for DiCaprio from Leo’s BFF, Helly Nahmad, only recently sprung from jail himself.
As they say, to be continued…