The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the charitable initiative formed by the Oscar-winning actor which has raised millions of dollars for global environmental causes, has lately been ensnared in the Department of Justice investigation into a Malaysian fund allegedly used by co-financier Red Granite to fund The Wolf of Wall Street, which DiCaprio starred in and produced.
The DOJ has been looking into whether that money came to businessman Jho Low and Riza Aziz through the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund (Aziz is stepson of Najib Razak, the Malaysian Prime Minister who is chairman of the fund’s advisory board). That has led to questions over whether the funds benefited LDF in any way. DiCaprio has not been named in the investigation, but that hasn’t stopped unflattering coverage in THR and other press, including a call from the Swiss-based charity Bruno Manser Funds to return any ill-gotten funds, and another that DiCaprio step away from his position as UN Messenger of Peace, bestowed by UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon for his work on environmental causes. The Foundation is finally speaking up for itself, for the first time. The message, essentially: the LDF is cooperating fully with the DOJ and will divest itself of any fund-raising proceeds that came from ill-gotten donations, once the investigation is completed.
“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,” said a spokesperson. “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.”
Since winning the Best Actor Academy Award for The Revenant, DiCaprio has put his focus on producing the Fisher Stevens-directed climate change documentary Before the Flood, and the Kief Davidson/Richard Ladkani-directed The Ivory Game, on ivory poachers that are decimating the population of elephants in Africa.