Leonardo DiCaprio may have received some very expensive paintings in a super shady way.
According to artnet, DiCaprio, a known art collector, is reportedly in the process of surrendering a $3.2 million painting and a $9 million collage to U.S. authorities in the wake of a huge embezzlement scandal.
Red Granite — the company that produced DiCaprio's movie The Wolf of Wall Street — was co-founded by Riza Aziz, the stepson of Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, and reportedly received illicit financing from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund (also known as 1MDB fund). The fund was initially created for the purposes of economic development, but now allegedly has a hand in less noble dealings.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s anti-money-laundering division filed seeking the surrender of $540 million in assets that it says were bought with money stolen from the 1MDB fund and entities it controlled, reports artnet. These assets include $100 million worth of art, a luxury yacht, and real estate. In addition to the art, the U.S. government previously sought civil forfeiture of “any rights to profits, royalties, and distribution proceeds” related to The Wolf of Wall Street.
But how is Leo directly involved?
Malaysian financier, art collector, and associate of DiCaprio's, Jho Low, had influence over the corrupt 1MDB fund and has been the subject of investigation for misuse of money before. The government has reason to believe that DiCaprio's Picasso painting, au crâne de taureau, was a gift from Low.
In a statement, DiCaprio’s spokesperson explains:
However, the claim that the painting was received for charitable purposes conflicts with the note attached to the painting that read, "Dear Leonardo DiCaprio: Happy belated Birthday! This gift is for you.”
The Basquiat painting, Redman One, was reportedly bought from the Helly Nahmad gallery in New York in March 2013 with funds controlled by an entity known as Tanore, also believed to have been controlled by Low. According to the complaint, Low instructed a gallery in Switzerland as follows:
The letter was signed by both Low and DiCaprio.
Although it seems as if DiCaprio is suddenly under fire for owning these priceless works of art, his spokesperson told artnet,
It looks like America's sweetheart may have a real-life Jordan Belfort problem on his hands. But who needs a priceless Picasso anyway?